Newbury Street, Boston, MA
October – November 2018
Mark Hewitt: Authoritative Vessels
by Rob Hunter
Mark Hewitt is a master potter, scholar, and writer whose ceramic art and publications have earned him international distinction and acclaim. His stoneware vessels, steeped in tradition and history, are characterized by their skillful execution and radiate an original and ever-evolving personal aesthetic. His choice of ceramic forms, from small drinking cups to colossal storage jars, are always strong and decisive. When combined with tinted slips and glazes that respond to the volatile environment of his wood-fired kilns, his vessels explode with celestial arrays of color and pattern.
Mark’s father and grandfather were directors at the well-known Spode factory in Staffordshire, England, the world’s motherland of industrially produced ceramics. The Staffordshire system of making ceramics was characterized by exacting production methods, engineered clays and glazes, and strict labor administration—elements that are maintained in Mark’s meticulously organized workshops. His distinct aesthetic sensibilities were undoubtedly shaped during his apprenticeship with Michael Cardew, arguably the most important English studio potter of the 20th century. Hewitt combines the DNA of traditional British slipware with Cardew’s West African design influences to create a strikingly fresh and distinctive oeuvre.
The signposts of Mark’s formative training and exposure to global wood-firing traditions can be readily seen in his pots, just as one might read travel stickers on a well-worn Louis Vuitton steamer trunk. He has trekked the world as a pottery pilgrim, seeking out the hallowed enclaves of world wood-firing traditions in Africa, Great Britain, America, Korea, and Japan.
When the time came for Mark to put down his ceramic roots 1983, he picked a seemingly desolate patch of red clay within the rural landscape of central North Carolina. Pittsboro, at first glance, appears to be the perfect location to appease a hermit’s longing for seclusion, but his home is firmly centered in both the physical and metaphysical vortex of North Carolina’s centuries old folk pottery community. His kiln openings are legendary for the standing room only onslaught of eager patrons that travel many miles to purchase his work.
Mark is incredibly self-aware of his role and responsibility within the craft tradition and offers assistance and advice to many. Mindful of the rich heritage that informs his work, Mark serves as the preeminent ambassador for “America’s most revered stoneware pottery tradition.” He trains young potters through the conventional apprentice system, many of whom have gone on to become renowned practitioners in the field. He lectures widely and is an ardent spokesperson for the wood-fired community at large. Mark’s authoritative voice, however, is best revealed in his own fired clay vessels, which speak to generations of ceramics collectors about history, craftsmanship, and beauty.
Robert Hunter is the editor of Ceramics in America, an archaeologist and ceramic historian living in Williamsburg, Virginia. He is an elected Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of London.