I’ve been lucky to receive an artist’s residency fellowship at the Smithsonian Institution over this winter and spring to look at pots in their collections. Mostly I’m studying early American stoneware in the amazing Remensnyder collection at the National Museum of American History, with some time at the Freer looking at their wonderful Asian holdings. My project started out looking at pots that document specific relationships between users and makers: presentation, commissioned, dedicated and end-of-day works in the American context, and inscribed accessories associated with Asian works in the Japanese context. I am interested in how these particular historical pots resonate with some of the ways we understand contemporary studio pottery.
Since I started this project (which was interrupted for a bit by the government shutdown) I have become interested as well in the story of how African Americans interacted with the potteries in New York and New Jersey in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. I’ve been reading about the Crolius and Remmey families working adjacent to the African Burial Ground in lower Manhattan (Willem Crolius manumitted an enslaved family in 1779), African-American freedman potter Thomas Commeraw and his relationship to the obscure David Morgan, and the Morgan slave trading scandal of 1818 (in which the scion of the holder of the largest stoneware clay bank in Perth Amboy ,NJ, was indicted for the kidnapping and transporting of enslaved New Jerseyans to Louisiana where he owned a plantation). Fascinating and disturbing history. I’ll be talking about some of this and demonstrating some historical techniques) at “Dish Camp” at Eastfield Village in June.