September 17 – October 3O, 2O22
© 2022 Northern Clay Center. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews. For information, write to: Northern Clay Center 2424 Franklin Avenue East Minneapolis, MN Unless978-1-932706-63-1InternationalFirstManufacturedwww.northernclaycenter.org55406intheUnitedStatesedition,2022StandardBookNumberotherwisenoted,alldimensions: height precedes width precedes depth. This activity is made possible by the voters of Minnesota through a Minnesota State Arts Board Operating Support grant, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the Arts and Cultural Heritage AdditionalFund.funding for A Gathering: Works from ‘Contemporary Black American Ceramic Artists’ comes from Prospect Creek Foundation, RDK Foundation, and Windgate Foundation.
The catalyst for the book… donald a clark: The seed for this book was planted during a visit when I went to the home of John Bullard on Deer
We found we couldn’t leave well enough alone. At the end of work sessions, we would find ourselves energized with a repeated tendency to dream and imagine what was possible, reflecting on the exceptional quality of the work provided by the artists for the book we were creating. Also, we felt their stories, and the time they shared with us, were so valuable we wanted to expand the way the world could appreciate and experience the artists.
The physical manifestation of the book as an exhibition provides the world a bonus opportunity to engage with and view the artists’ work in the book. Also, this exhibition expands the book’s impact by bringing words and images off the page into the gallery space for amplified visibility of the artists and their works.
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Our journey did not begin at the same starting point for the book, Contemporary Black American Ceramic Artists, and the exhibition project. However, our story ends with us together and with a completed book that produced a beautiful exhibition. We didn’t set out to create an exhibition; we just wanted to turn in a strong and polished manuscript to our book publisher on time. The goal was merely to make a printed exhibition of the work of contemporary Black American ceramic artists.
This is our story of how the exhibition, A Gathering: Works from ‘Contemporary Black American Ceramic Artists’, came into existence…
It is important to note that the making of this exhibition, and the book that birthed it, all occurred during the global Coronavirus pandemic and racial reckoning following the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota— witnessed by the world. Launching this book with
the exhibition, A Gathering, in Minneapolis is an important piece of this story. With Chotsani Elaine Dean’s established relationship with Northern Clay Center and living in Minneapolis, our goal all along was to get the work of a group of underserved makers before the eyes of as many people as possible.
We worked fully socially distanced for the entirety of creating the book. For the two of us, there were numerous phone calls with artists in the book, scholars, and our editor. Hours of Zoom meetings, and creating and clicking through Google Drive folders and documents, were compulsory to build the DNA of the book that eventually produced the exhibition titled A Gathering
It was during The Color Network meeting that I first heard donald speak about a book that intended to focus primarily on contemporary Black makers actively working in clay. As a gallerist for 25 years, donald expressed his concerns and frustrations that there has been no significant representation of 21st century Black makers in clay especially, and most specifically, in the form of a book. Little did I know I would be on the phone with him a year or so later to co-author such a book with him.
In the fall of 2019, I went to an American Craft Council Symposium in Philadelphia. While there, I visited the Schiffer booth to preview a book a friend had written about American potters. I spoke with the representative at the publisher’s booth and shared with her my idea to put together a book with the same format, but featuring the work of Black ceramic artists. I wasn’t aware that
At the time, I was doing research for The Marks Project (TMP), documenting the work of American ceramic makers working after 1946. TMP received a grant to document a collection that included a Doyle Lane piece; its image is in the book. I wrote a short profile about Lane, and it was very difficult to find information about him. After my conversation on Deer Isle and my work for The Marks Project, I realized the Black presence in American studio pottery needed to be more widely acknowledged, accessible, and valued. I left Deer Isle thinking again and again what could be done about that.
donald a clark:
During our visits, it was typical for John to pick up a pot and say, “Look, I just got this.” John is a museum man; scholarship is a key thread to his collecting. He always conducts research about a maker and the piece being considered before making a purchase. He would hold the new piece and talk about it. During one conversation, he picked up a pot made by Doyle Lane. John shared with me that Lane was a Black man, born in New Orleans, who spent his adult life in California. John clearly had a special connection to Lane. Their lives expanded in reverse. John was born and raised in California, and he then went on to live in New Orleans where, for decades, he was the Director of the New Orleans Art Museum.
Chotsani Elaine Dean:
Isle, Maine, in the summer of 2019. John Bullard is an important collector of contemporary American studio pottery. The colonial-era house John lives in during the summer has been enriched by the addition of a “barn.” It was in this barn that one sat and visited with John while surrounded by the hundreds of pieces of pottery he keeps there.
During the same time in 2019, I was living and teaching ceramics at a small liberal arts university in South Carolina. During this year, I traveled to Minneapolis in March 2019 for NCECA. I curated an
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exhibition at Northern Clay Center titled, Trading Post: Exchange & Sojourn. In addition, I was an exhibiting artist in the exhibition, Form Will Find Its Way, curated by Becky Carpenter in the Katherine Nash Gallery at The University of Minnesota. At this time, I did not know I would work at the university; I was simply in the city to attend the conference. Yet, at the end of the year, the position at the University of Minnesota was posted, I applied, and the rest is history now.
donald was also at the 2019 NCECA conference in Minneapolis. I was at NCECA to spread the word and encourage makers to document their work with us. I was invited to an invitation-only meeting of The Color Network to speak about TMP and was then prompted by the individual who had invited me to also speak about the book. I wasn’t expecting or prepared for this. In the end it worked out well; the response to TMP and the book was encouraging.
Subsequently, I entered into a contract with Schiffer to produce a book with the working title, Black Hands in Clay. A “Then” section was added to present a historical foundation with a selection of several early makers in clay. The main part of the book, a section called “Now”, was capped at 40 makers. The research began in earnest.
In May of 2020, racial reckoning and uprisings began in Minneapolis and spread quickly around the world after the murder of George Floyd. Weeks later, in June, my role as author of this book project was challenged. Peter Schiffer, the publisher, received a petition signed by 12 people. The petition demanded that the book project not go forward with me as the author for a number of reasons. The main concern presented was that, as a white man, I couldn’t record the powerful truth narratives of the Black community. My intention was to create a space for the makers to share their truths.
Enter Chotsani Elaine Dean. When I began researching her work for her profile in the book, and saw images of her work, I realized I had seen them at Gallery on the Green in Canton, Connecticut in 2009. I remember her work as an important visual moment for me, and seeing it again on her website confirmed that the encounter with her work was still very strong in my mind.
It was March 2020 when I received an email from donald describing a book project with an invitation for my participation as co-author. We planned a phone call and began talking for quite some time. We realized we have crossed paths many times as we are both New Englanders, both born in Connecticut (donald in Middletown and and myself in Hartford), and we have quite a few friends/acquaintances in common. We chatted away and away and had a great time with our conversation—weaving to and fro from my work to our lives and experiences and memories of home. I was excited to be included in a publication.
As mentioned earlier, I wanted to center focus on the work of Black makers in ceramics. I wanted to learn more about, engage with, and have conversations with Black makers. The goal was to share these conversations and their work in a curated book, just as I had curated exhibitions throughout my career as a gallerist and a collector of 21st century pottery. After Peter Schiffer met with the petitioners, he and I agreed to end the original contract. With thoughtful discussion and reflection, we both felt the book project could only begin again if a Black author agreed to be co-author.
donald a clark: We went on to speak at length—our last conversation preparing her profile and deciding on images to be in the book before the book contract ended with Schiffer in June. In midAugust 2020, we both signed on to an Everson Museum online program, Exploring the Museum, with Garth Johnson, Paul Phillips & Sharon Sullivan Ceramics Center Curator of Ceramics This event featured Rebecca Sive, a Chicagobased collector, in conversation about her collection of American women’s ceramics. Rebecca shared one of Chotsani’s pieces in her collection that she purchased from the Trading Post exhibition at Northern Clay Center at NCECA 2019.
While in Philadelphia, I had lunch with a supportive social contact who also was delighted when I shared the news of the positive reception of my pitch with Schiffer. I felt encouraged to continue in making this book a reality.
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I was talking to Schiffer’s Senior Editor, Sandra Korinchak. Her immediate response was, “I want to publish that book.”
Chotsani Elaine Dean:
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Chotsani Elaine Dean:
This has been a long, arduous, and rewarding process, filled with courageous conversation— with makers and between us—deadlines that seemed impossible to meet, writing that brought revelation and hope, and above all an unexpected friendship and collaboration between two people who initially had not formally met one another in person. It wasn’t until December 2021 that we were able to see one another in person. We met in Middletown, Connecticut at Story and Soil coffee shop in the Wesleyan RJ Julia Bookstore as authors who lunch and to make up for all the online Zoom and phone meetings. The second time we got to see each other was in April 2022. I drove up from Windsor, Connecticut, to Springfield, Massachusetts, where donald lives, and we went to his (and now my) favorite Italian restaurant, Red Rose, where we plan to meet and conspire again.
Our goal all along was to get the work of a group of underserved and underrepresented remarkable makers before the eyes of as many people as possible. I serve on the Artist Advisory Committee at Northern Clay Center in Minneapolis. It was obvious to present to the committee the opportunity to bring the book to life in the gallery at NCC. Yes! It meant more eyes!
Conclusion: What does the exhibition, A Gathering, represent for us? Hope, in spite of the ambiguity of plans falling apart as well as being disrupted by the pandemic; an act of faith that, in times of turbulence, the pursuit of bringing artists and their work together can ignite change; the creation of a space to invite viewers to be in conversation with the artists; and to see a diverse spectrum of work made by Black Americans who all came to clay in their own way.
A Gathering is the companion, and physical manifestation, of the book Contemporary Black American Ceramic Artists, co-authored by donald a clark and Chotsani Elaine Dean.
Soon after this Zoom panel, we spoke again. Chotsani was aware the petition had been sent. After more conversation, and time to consider the scale of the task of writing a book and the possible ramifications of participating, she agreed to take on this project. We discovered and added new makers, wrote a number of the profiles together, and edited each other’s writing before it was sent to each maker for a last read and edit. The writing in the “Then” section is the result of many hours of joint work. Together, we produced Contemporary Black American Ceramic Artists
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Doucet Untitled (Florescence), 2022 Slipcast white earthenware 15 x 12 x 8
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Aaron Caldwell Vaseline Sheep, 2019 Ceramic, steel nails, cone 1 glaze
13 x 5 x 8
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15 x 12 x 9
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Lydia C. Thompson Bones of our Journey, 2021 Ceramic, wood
A Nation When Black Excellence Won’t Be Denied #7, 2021 Brown stoneware, gold luster
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11.5 x 8 x 8
Jim McDowell Nelson, Wood-fired2013high-fire clay, white Shino glaze, teeth made of broken bits china
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9.5 x 9 x 8
Pridgon Mystical Twists 1, 2020 Stoneware, Raku, glaze 13 x 14 x 8
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Girl Magic, 2022 White stoneware 9 x 4 x 4, 2.5 x 3.25, 2.25 x 2.75
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Michelle Roxana Ettrick
Malcolm Mobutu Smith Kyathos Cup II, 2021
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Stoneware, slip, glaze 10 x 5 x 7
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Foliage Jug, 2022 Mid-range ceramic, glaze, gold luster 7.5 x 4 x 4
R. MacDonald Calabash Vase, 2020 Cone 10 stoneware 23 x 10.5 x 10.5
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Wesley T. Brown
Monument Bowl, 2022 Stoneware, black underglaze, lithium wash
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10 x 15 x 12
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Paul S. Briggs
I, 2022 Stoneware, glaze 14 x 12 x 9.5
Grief for Philando Castile, 2018
Stoneware, underglaze, frit glaze, acrylic, gold leaf, terracotta, bullet casings
26 x 14 x 15
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Northern Clay Center 21 Ebitenyefa Baralaye Margaret, 14Stoneware,2022glazex13.5x13.5
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24 x 18 x 8
Entangle #2, 2019 Terracotta,
Adero Willard engobe, slip, glaze
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Henrietta Dwells, 2011 Stoneware, porcelain 18 x 17 x 15
Earline M. Green
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Earthenware, engobe, acrylic wash
26 x 15 x 15
Nathan Murray West Point 16, 2021
Kimmy Cantrell Dilemma, glaze
17 x 10 x 8
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Cut Out Bowl With Lid, 2020
13 x 9 x 9
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Keith Wallace Smith Henry:
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The Fall, 2019 Terracotta, walnut, maple, granite 26.5 x 17.5 x 17.5
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Tricia Bishop Snippets,
2019 Earthenware, terra sigillata 21 x 19 x 9.5
Lidded Jar Black Panther Series #2, 2022
Raku, glaze, metallic wax, tape resist
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14.5 x 5 x 5
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James C. Watkins
Double-Walled Basket, 2021 Stoneware, gold luster fumed with stannous chloride 21 x 20 x 20
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Brown Celebration, 2020 6Stonewarex10.5x10.5
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sour, hot, bitter, and sweet, 2022 Porcelain, cedar, black joy
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2.5 x 24 x 5.5
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Shemarny’s Partner - She Twisted, 2022 Ceramic, glaze, overglaze decals, luster
17 x 11 x 9
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25 x 17 x 17
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Rosa and Winton Eugene Exercise in Balance/Equal, 2005 Stoneware, tile grout, raw silk fabric
2008 Stoneware, glaze 40 x 27 x 18
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Prof. Bobby Scroggins Vessel,
Aisha Harrison Ancestor I, 2018 Clay, graphite, embroidery thread
41 x 27 x 10
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& Kyle Phelps Joanne, Ceramic,2022mixed media 30 x 14 x 9
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x 26 x 0.5
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Ellamaria Foley-Ray Earth Seed’s Quilt, 2022 Clay, mason stain, underglaze, acrylic, copper wire, rust, waxed cotton cord 25.5
Paul Andrew Wandless Stone Carver, 2021 Clay monoprint, cast earthenware, underglaze, watercolor underglaze
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15 x 15 x 2
18 x 18 x 8
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Vejigante: Papa, 2021 Terracotta, terra sigillata, wood, gilding, paint
Memory Spoon: ‘minding my garden, as they did with their gardens’, 2021 Ceramic, porcelain paper clay, silica sand, black sand, resin, dried flowers grown in my garden 13.5 x 4.5 x 4.25
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Chotsani Elaine Dean
Precarity of Progress, 2021
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Found ceramic sewer pipe, found brick sherds, porcelain, screen-printed underglaze transfers, glaze 13 x 16 x 12
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Kyle Rudy-Kohlhepp, Executive Director
Jordan Bongaarts, Exhibition Associate
Paul Vahle, Chairman of the Board
Northern Clay Center’s mission is to advance the ceramic arts for artists, learners, and the community, through education, exhibitions, and artist services. Its goals are to create and promote high-quality, relevant, and participatory ceramic arts educational experiences; cultivate and challenge ceramic arts audiences through extraordinary exhibitions and programming; support ceramic artists in the expansion of their artistic and professional skills; embrace makers from diverse cultures and experiences in order to create a more inclusive clay community; and excel as a non-profit arts organization.
Board of Directors
Amanda Kay Anderson Bryan HeatherAndersonNameth Bren Evelyn Weil Browne Nettie
Tippy Maurant, Deputy Director/ Director of Galleries & Exhibitions
NORTHERN CLAY CENTER
2424 Franklin Avenue East Minneapolis, Minnesota 55406 www.northernclaycenter.org612.339.8007