One year after the Mint Museum opened, four pieces of pottery by Benjamin Wade Owen, a principal potter at Jugtown, were gifted to the museum. These objects were the beginning of the museum’s North Carolina pottery collection, which has now grown to more than 2,100 examples that includes objects that range from the last quarter of the eighteenth century to the first decades of the twenty-first. All of the major pottery centers of the state—the Piedmont, Catawba Valley, the mountains—are represented, as are most of the state’s family dynasties of potters, such as the Coles, the Cravens, and the Reinhardts.
More than 100 examples of the Mint’s pottery collection will be on display in an upcoming exhibition A Thriving Tradition: 75 Years of Collecting North Carolina Pottery. The exhibition, on view at the Mint Museum Randolph from 12 November 2011 to 6 January 2013, features work by 75 potters and is offered as a part of the museum’s celebration of its 75th anniversary as a public art institution, the oldest one in North Carolina.
The Mint Museum’s pottery collection was developed in large part because of the passion, connoisseurship, and generosity of key collectors of North Carolina pottery.
Some of these collectors adopted an encyclopedic approach to their collecting efforts, acquiring examples of pottery from all of the key pottery regions in the state. Other museum patrons preferred a more specialized strategy, focusing their collecting efforts on a specific potter or a particular type of ware. Regardless of their individual interests, all of these collectors contributed enormously to the depth and breadth of the museum’s North Carolina pottery collection as it exists today. The exhibition pays tribute to these ceramics enthusiasts by putting on view notable works from their respective collections.
In addition to works from the museum’s permanent collection, the exhibition includes many objects borrowed from local collectors. By continuing to acquire works made by North Carolina potters, contemporary collectors help to ensure that the state’s most important craft tradition remains vibrant. The loans on view illustrate the tremendous variety of objects being collected by current enthusiasts of the craft.
One final key aspect of the exhibition is that it runs concurrently, or at least partially, at the Mint Museum Randolph and the North Carolina Pottery Center in Seagrove. Both institutions feature works that range from the early nineteenth century to today, represent the major pottery regions of the state, and include items from the Mint’s permanent collection and loans. This exhibition represents the inaugural collaboration between the North Carolina Pottery Center and the Mint Museum.The exhibition will be on view at the NC Pottery Center from 11 November 2011 – 28 January 2012.