Many of us have heard of the “farm-to-table” concept—the idea that food comes from smaller, local farms that provide in-season, artisanal products. While many area restaurants and retailers have embraced the concept, the movement belongs to a major shift in the way American consumers have begun making decisions about the food they purchase and eat.
In this same vein, the organizers of Hill Center’s fourth annual Pottery on the Hill invite people to think more critically about their dishware’s provenance—is it mass produced, one of kind or handmade? Is it attractive and is it ethically produced?
Starting Friday, October 30 through November 1 at this year’s Pottery on the Hill, in addition to viewing ceramics as objets d’art , audiences will notice that all of the ceramics on display have a both a function and a purpose. Just as farmers sell their produce outside Eastern Market, the artists who create the ceramics at Pottery on the Hill will stand by their handmade, one-of-a-kind pieces. Their presence will offer the audience an opportunity to engage and interact with the objects’ makers and to discuss the process of throwing clay, hand-building and glazing.
This year’s exhibition includes the following artists: Sam Taylor, Michael Kline, Matthew Metz, Matthew Hyleck, Mark Shapiro, Kent McLaughlin, Gertrude Graham Smith, Donna Polseno, Dan Finnegan, Catherine White, Bruce Gholson, Bob Briscoe, Warren Frederick, Trista Depp Chapman, Suze Lindsay and Samantha Henneke.
Artist Dan Finnegan has organized every exhibition since 2011 in addition to showing his own work. Finnegan explains that “All potters invited are to make useful pots. That’s always been the emphasis for me. When I designed the show, we invited people who were making useful things.”
Finnegan has carefully selected participants from an elite group of full-time artist who are experts in the field of ceramics. This year, Finnegan invited three new members to fold including Kent McLauglin, Suze Lindsay and Gertrude Graham Smith all of whom hail from the prestigious Penland School of Crafts. Many artists have returned year-after-year like Bob Briscoe, who travels the furthest of any artist, coming all the way from rural Minnesota to engage with DC audiences. These men and woman have works exhibited in major museums such as the Smithsonian and lead the field of ceramics by way of teaching and publishing as well as through innovations that set the standard for their chosen discipline.
In keeping with this year’s overall theme of connecting the public with process of making functional ceramic objects, artist Mark Shapiro, Dan Finnegan, Sam Taylor and Blair Meerfeld, Chairman of the Art League Ceramics Department, will lead a “Pottery Jam” at the Torpedo Factory’s Annex located at 305 Madison Street in Alexandria, VA on Thursday, October 29 from 6:30-9:00 p.m.
Pottery Jam aims to offer audiences a more interactive format for experiencing pottery by actually participating in the creative process. This participatory process allows the audience to see how professional potters think and, in turn, allows people to start responding by creating work and to have a part in the aesthetic vision.
Mark Shapiro describes the format as follows: “It’s meant to be spontaneous, fun, unpredictable and informal.” One potter might make a pitcher and an audience member who wishes to add ornamentation can take over and start to add his or her touch. The next audience member might add a handle. “It’s the reason I call it a jam,” explains Shapiro “It’s like open mic night. We’ll be taking requests!” Shapiro hopes that people be entertained through a sense of anticipation and excitement all the while accessing prominent artists.
Mark Shapiro says “I’ve done five of them [Pottery Jams]; they’ve all been very different in how the pottery’s been experienced.” According to Shapiro, the space at Torpedo factory will be conductive to interactivity and spontaneity as the pottery wheels and audience chairs will form a circle so one can jump in and start making at any time.
Bonny Wolf, a food journalist and a Hill Center board member, has participated in organizing this year’s event. Wolf offers an additional take on scrutinizing the provenance of one’s dishware—while many people take great care in selecting what type of food they purchase, shouldn’t that same care extend to how one actually presents such carefully selected food? Wolf explains that “People often talk about authenticity. People talk about the source of your food.” She concludes that as a result, “People might actually then be interested in how that food is served.”
While this trend may not have caught on with individual consumers, Wolf notes that several restaurants in the area have commissioned potters to create dishware for their restaurants. These restauranteurs have expressed the same concern for both the food they serve and how they present it in order to offer diners the highest quality gastronomical experience.
Pottery on the Hill 2015 Events and Information
- Pottery Jam will take place at the Torpedo Factory’s Annex located at 305 Madison Street in Alexandria, VA on Thursday, October 29 from 6:30-9:00pm.
- Pottery on the Hill will take place at Hill Center located at 900 Pennsylvania Avenue SE, Washington, DC with a preview reception on Friday, October 30 at 6:30pm (ticketed event | $25 in advance; $30 at the door).
- The show and sale (free) will take place Saturday, October 31 from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. and Sunday, November 1 from 11 a.m.-4 p.m.