Pottery on the Hill 2017

By Phil Hutinet on October 24, 2017
Image courtesy Hill Center.


Now a mainstay of Hill Center’s arts programming, Pottery on the Hill exhibits work from some of the nation’s most prestigious ceramic artists under one roof.  Pottery on the Hill presents an opportunity for area residents to experience master craftspeople whose work straddles the line between fine art and functional houseware. Hill Center curates the expo in a setting more reminiscent of an art fair where each artist has been carefully selected by renowned ceramicist Dan Finnegan.

Image courtesy Hill Center.

Fredericksburg, Virginia-based ceramic artist Dan Finnegan has selected every artist since the inception of Pottery on the Hill in 2011. “Pots for use is the theme of the show” he explains.  Finnegan selects ceramicists who produce “useful pots.  This has always been the emphasis for me.”  As a returning artist himself, Finnegan, shares a common passion with other exhibitors in producing everyday items which people can use.

This year’s list of participants include Bob Briscoe (Minneapolis, MN), Bulldog Pottery-Bruce Gholson & Samantha Henneke (Seagrove, NC), Trista Depp Chapman (Fredericksburg, VA), Naomi Dalglish (Bakersville, NC), Warren Frederick (Warrenton, VA), Ryan Greenheck (Philadelphia, PA), Michael Hunt (Bakersville, NC), Matthew Hyleck (Baltimore, MD), Michael Kline (Bakersville, NC), Matthew Metz (Alfred Station, NY), Donna Polseno (Floyd, VA), Mark Shapiro (Worthington, MA), Stacy Snyder (Arlington, VA), Sam Taylor (Westhampton, MA), and Catherine White (Warrenton, VA).

Image courtesy Hill Center.

Pottery on the Hill begins with a ticketed preview reception on Friday, October 27 at 6:30 p.m.  This allows ticket holders exclusive access to purchase work and to meet the artists in a less hurried environment.  In addition, Hill Center will offer the first 100 attendees at the preview reception a complimentary sampler cup created by one of the artists.

Saturday and Sunday, October 28 and 28, Pottery on the Hill opens free of charge to the general public. Works from this year’s participants include a wide array of functions including mugs and cups, plates, bowls, beer steins and shot glasses, vases, platters, sushi dishes, baking vessels, all of which are unique, one-of-a-kind handmade object which one can enjoy daily.

The organizers of Pottery of the Hill have always sought to include a series of interactive ceramic events or workshops to connect audiences with the ceramic making process. Past activities have included a “Pottery Slam” with potters shaping various vessels in front of an audience and a “Pottery Truck” where audience members could glaze and fire a mug.  This year, Pottery on the Hill will introduce audiences to raku glazing and firing.

Image courtesy Hill Center.

Northeast-based District Clay will offer willing audience members an opportunity to try their hand at raku firing with a special interactive workshop on Saturday, October 28 from 11 a.m.-2 p.m.  A raku kiln will be placed in Hill Center’s outdoor plaza where participants can first decorate then glaze a pot and watch it get fired. Even if those who elect not to participate can still witness the glazing and firing process which, with raku, involves “combusting” the stoneware.

Image courtesy Hill Center.

Raku firing uses a specialty kiln which facilitates a low temperature firing process to create vibrant colors.  Historians trace the origin of Raku to 1550s Japan.  Sixteenth Century Zen Buddhist masters mention the use of raku, which literally means “happiness in the accident” in Japanese. The monks preferred this use of stoneware for tea ceremonies as the aesthetic embodies the Buddhist qualities of simplicity and naturalness. The process takes on a magical form in as much as all four elements–earth, fire, air and water–come together to create stoneware.

In the United States, contemporary raku methods differ slightly from the Japanese ones as they involve the removal of pottery while bright red and combining it with materials that ignite the clay, such as sawdust or paper and, the lack of oxygen during the combustion process creates cracks and intensely rich colors.

“The raku firing during Pottery on the Hill represents a chance for the community to make something unique. They can glaze or paint their pot, then watch it transform before their eyes,” says Finnegan. “Creating this kind of art allows visitors to step into the shoes of a potter for just a brief moment to experience the excitement and anticipation of the finished product.”

Pottery on the Hill 2017 Schedule

Preview Reception
Friday, October 27, 6:30 p.m.
Tickets: $30/advance, $35/day of.
Tickets are available at PotteryontheHillDC.org or by calling (202) 549-4172

Free Show & Sale
Saturday, October 28: 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
Sunday, October 29: 11 a.m.-4 p.m.

Raku Firing
Saturday, October 28, 11 a.m.-2 p.m.


Hill Center is located in the historic Old Naval Hospital at 921 Pennsylvania Avenue SE, just one block from the Eastern Market metro.  Visit them online at www.hillcenterdc.org or www.poertyonthehilldc.org