Once again, a big thanks to Rob Hunter and his inspired Ceramics in America 2014 ‘top ten’ issue.
If my "Hit Parade" were to be about looks alone, I might have included the creative slip applications of English Mocha ware, or the bizarre, twisted explorations of George Orr, or the brilliant cobalt blues of German Westerwald salt-fired stoneware, or the wood-fired stoneware of Richard Bresnahan with whom I did my apprenticeship, etc, etc. etc.
But the genius of this exercise is to explore pottery’s intimate walk with humanity through the ages. And it invites musing on one’s own relation to this incredible field as well. Narrowing that down to ten entries is challenge enough!
For example, I could have easily included the Absalom Steadman stoneware jug c. 1823 which received the highest price paid at auction for early American pottery, thus illuminating the status of historic pottery in today’s art economy. The 1840 William Henry Harrison transfer print pitcher by David Henderson speaks volumes about the part ceramics played in the development of our national politics. The 11th century Central Mosque in D’jenne, Mali is the world’s largest adobe clay structure. (But what’s that silly tourist doing there?) Potters for Peace’s Filtron water purifier project highlights the enormous contributions of pottery to rural community development efforts. The black pottery of Maria Martinez offers a classic example of pottery and cultural revitalization. And the curious parallels between Richard Bresnahan’s unique wood firing process and astro-physics is fodder for an entire book in itself.
Every picture tells a story. So does every pot. The thing is, when it comes to pottery history’s ‘top 10,’ the story itself is quite often where it’s at.