Archive for the ‘Rudolf Christ’ Category

Woodstock

October 13, 2013

The Moravian community of Salem NC, founded in the mid 18th century, believed in austere living and strict religious observance.  But it shouldn’t be surprising that a group this stodgy would produce flowery and exuberant earthenware.  It was all part of their world view.

Then again, as with adherents to any doctrine, Moravian potters were not always above reproach.  Rudolf Christ was the most talented and successful apprentice of Salem’s first master potter Gottfried Aust.  Rudolf also proved to be one of Aust’s more “arrogant and rebellious” charges.  He was a “stupid ass, like other children in the Community.”  And as with unsupervised children anywhere at any time, Rudolf was given to vague but ominous  “evil doings.”

The Moravian Lovefeast perhaps added fuel to the fire.  Lovefeast was (still is) a popular Moravian institution.  Goodwill and congeniality combined to break down social barriers and celebrate fellowship.  Its roots trace back to the beginnings of Christianity.  But congeniality and lack of social barriers are a potent combination.  The early church dropped Lovefeast in favor of stability.

The Moravians brought Lovefeast back in the mid 1770’s.  A large coffee urn by Rudolf Christ bears an inscription on its bottom referencing one such event.  This  Lovefeast would be Rudolf’s last.  He retired from pottery making two months later.

Today we celebrate Lovefeast.
That you can tell by the good turnout.
When this urn is full of coffee
How few are missed.
And when it’s full, then I’m right there.
And when it’s empty, then we’ll sing Hallelujah.
March 12, 1821.

The rebellious, unconventional Rudolf loved a good party, replete with large crowds and stimulating refreshments.  It sounds like he went out with a bang.  Woodstock move over!

Readings:
The Moravian Potters in North Carolina.  John Bivins.  University of North Carolina Press/Chapel Hill.  1972.

The Art of the Potter.  Diana and J. Garrison Stradling.  Main Street-Universe Books/New York.  1977.

Ceramics in America.  Robert Hunter, Ed.  University Press of New England/Lebanon, NH.  2009.

 

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Eleazer Orcutt

January 2, 2011

If I could travel back in time to speak with any 19th century American potter, Eleazer Orcutt would make the short list.  He wouldn’t be alone on that list, but few others were so involved with so many potteries in so many places.

A handful of individuals can be credited with transforming pottery making in certain areas.  Athens, NY potter Nathan Clark almost single handedly trained enough potters to make New York the “Stoneware State.”  Bennington’s Norton family left their mark by setting standards nearly impossible to duplicate.  Moravian Rudolf Christ left a unique body of work that continues to astound.  But stoneware potter Eleazer Orcutt belongs to that small group who played a direct, personal role in pottery development across a vast geographic expanse.

There was a surprising amount of mobility during Eleazer’s lifetime.  Many potters worked in multiple places.  Immigrant English masters like Staffordshire’s Daniel Greatbatch were in great demand from Vermont to South Carolina to Illinois.  Sometimes entire families, like the Crafts’ of Whately MA, would fan out across several states to take advantage of local markets.  Orcutt’s family, also from Whately, followed this path.  They were not only friends and often times business partners with the Crafts,’ but in-laws as well.  Imagine those family reunions!

Family dynasties were common.  The Osborne family of Quaker potters was active throughout New England during the 18th century.  The Bell family seems to have dominated Virginia and Maryland in the 19th century.  Various pottery clans of Georgia and the Carolina’s continue to produce master potters to this day.

Then there were the drifters.  They’d blow into town, fill your shop with pots, earn some cash, buy some whiskey, and be gone.  They seem to have been a particularly common sight in many late 19th – early 20th century southern rural jugtowns – although Christopher Webber Fenton attracted his share of ‘less savory’ folks to the Norton Pottery in Bennington during his tenure there in the mid 1840’s.

Eleazer Orcutt’s resume places him at either the beginning or the height of several major pottery regions in the Northeastern US.  Whately and Ashfield, MA. Portland, ME. All over New York, from Troy to Poughkeepie, Lasingburgh and Albany…  Not as a vagrant potting drifter.  He was instrumental in establishing potteries in many of these places.

The wealth of experience Eleazer Orcutt carried with him must have been amazing.  But he is gone now.  And we’re left with just the internet.

Readings:
American Potters and Pottery. John Ramsey.  1939.  Colonial Press/Clinton, MA.

American Stoneware.  William Ketchum.  1991.  Holt & Co./New York.

Early Potters and Potteries of New York State. William Ketchum.  Funk & Wagnalls/New York.  1970.

The Pottery and Porcelain of the United States.  Edwin Atlee Barber.  G.P. Putnam’s Sons/New York.  1909.

Early New England Potters and Their Wares. Lura Woodside Watkins.  Harvard Univ Press/Cambridge MA.  1968.

A Guide to Whately Pottery and the Potters. Henry Baldwin.  Paradise Copies/Northampton, MA.  1999.

The Early Potters and Potteries of Maine. M. Lelyn Branin.  Wesleyan University Press/Middletown Ct.  1978.

The Art of the Potter. Diana and J. Garrison Stradling.  Main Street-Universe Books/New York.  1977.

American Redware. William Ketchum.  Holt & Co./NY.  1991.