Mark Hewitt
[email protected]

Pottery Exhibition in conjunction with NCECA 2024 Conference
East Tower of Riverfront Plaza
901 E Byrd St., Richmond, VA, 23219
March 19-24, 2024, 10am – 5pm each day

The long, rich, and complex traditions of North Carolina pottery are given a striking, contemporary vision in a new exhibition coming to Richmond, Virginia, in March. “Thrown Together: Tradition, Apprenticeship, and Individualism,” is being held in conjunction with the annual conference of the National Council for Education in the Ceramic Arts (NCECA), in Richmond, VA, March 19-23, 2024.

Or: To be considered…

The upcoming pottery exhibition, “Thrown Together: Tradition, Apprenticeship, and Individualism,”  held in conjunction with the annual conference of the National Council for Education in the Ceramic Arts (NCECA), in Richmond, VA, March 19-23, 2024 presents over 50 pieces of pottery that connect  the long, rich and complex traditions of North Carolina pottery with a compelling, contemporary expression of ceramic excellence.


The exhibition showcases the work of Mark Hewitt, described by the eminent folklorist, Henry Glassie as, “A great American Master,” as well as pots made by his six North Carolina-based former apprentices, Daniel Johnston, Matt Jones, Alex Matisse, Joseph Sand, Lara O’Keefe, and Stillman Browning-Howe.

Or:  To be considered…

The exhibition showcases the work of Mark Hewitt, described by the eminent folklorist, Henry Glassie as, “A great American Master,” as well as pots made six of his apprentices who have set up their own pottery studios and/or businesses in North Carolina:  Daniel Johnston, Matt Jones, Alex Matisse, Joseph Sand, Lara O’Keefe, and Stillman Browning-Howe.

Mark Hewitt, potter

From mugs to very large vessels, the exhibition examines how Hewitt and these six former apprentices bend elements of the North Carolina tradition to reflect their individual sensibilities, as if improvising on songs from a neglected chapter of the Great American Songbook. While sharing a pottery family resemblance, each potter has a strong and unique voice. Discrete identity precedes an apprenticeship and reasserts itself once the training ends. Individual aesthetic influences and impulses gain traction as time and careers advance, and this show illustrates the six potters’ progressions as well as the work of Hewitt, their mentor, now in the fifth decade of his artistic career.

“Pots are a form of communication. A mug, for instance, resonates through touch and use,” writes the British-born potter, “It’s an embraceable melody, a tangible poem, a delight for your digits, and a sensual connection with the maker. My mugs are love offerings.”

Mark Hewitt, son and grandson of Directors of Spode, the English fine china manufacturer, rebelled against his upbringing and after six years of apprenticeship, three with celebrated English studio potter, Michael Cardew, and three with another Cardew student, Todd Piker, in Cornwall Bridge, where he met his wife, Carol, in 1983 they moved to Pittsboro, NC in 1983. He uses local clays and glaze materials and fires his pots in a very large wood burning kiln. He’s been pivotal in identifying the key elements of the North and South Carolina traditions and fusing them into a vibrant contemporary style which has attracted a large regional following.

“Traditional folk pots are a type of landscape painting,” says Hewitt. “They are an echo of a place and time, reverberating with a region’s geology and cultural history.” Illustrative of this was the magnificent recent show, “Hear Me Now: The Black Potters of Edgefield, South Carolina,” at the Met and Boston MFA, and the University of Michigan Museum of Art. Just as the South’s famed heritage of Blues, jazz, gospel, rockabilly, and bluegrass continue to feed and inspire modern musicians, so too does North Carolina’s stubborn and multilayered pottery history provide a fertile creative base for the new works being shown “Thrown Together.”

As veteran potter and poet, Jack Troy, says, “If North America has a ‘pottery state,’ it must be North Carolina.” Several traditions are associated with the state, notably Moravian earthenware, the Eastern Piedmont salt glaze, the Alkaline glaze tradition from the Catawba Valley, and Art Ware made between the wars. An unbroken tradition which began in the late 18th century continues in North Carolina, and during the last forty years Hewitt and his apprentices have coalesced to reimagine a venerable tradition. Together they have realigned North Carolina folk pottery to include elements from the Mingei Movement (the Japanese Folk Art Movement), contemporary studio pottery, and industrial practice. “Thrown Together” examines the relationship between tradition and individualism, and the way apprenticeship influences future aesthetic choices.

Author and critic, Chris Benfey writes about Hewitt, “Crossroads: three young lads from Britain, Clapton and his mates, listen to old records by Southern bluesmen from the 1930’s and come up with music utterly new and fresh, where you can feel the crossing in your bones of two traditions – rural and urban, African American and alienated European, soft and very, very loud – in creative tension. Or a young lad named Mark Hewitt, from the Staffordshire, “Potteries” in the English Midlands, listens to the music of Southern potters and comes up with his own distinctive kind of ceramic music, utterly new and fresh – and very, very big.”

In 1982, on a road trip through the South with his future wife, Carol, Hewitt visited the few remaining folk potters in Tennessee, Georgia, and North Carolina, as if searching for old Southern musicians. “I remember Lanier Meaders’ workshop in northern Georgia – eight cedar posts wrapped with tar paper, rafters made of tree limbs, and a tin roof. Then, in the Catawba Valley of North Carolina, I recall standing on Burlon Craig’s clay pile, dug just down the road, and peering into his low-slung wood burning ‘groundhog’ kiln, thinking these potteries were like Cardew’s, rooted in usefulness and locality, but raw, and unvarnished.” Visiting Art Ware era, Jugtown Pottery, near Seagrove, founded in 1921 (and still going strong,) and seeing the old Carolina crocks and jugs in the small museum at the Seagrove Pottery run by Walter and Dorothy Auman, confirmed the area’s suitability as a location for a pottery.

In addition to making pots he’s curated two major exhibitions about Southern pottery, The Potter’s Eye: Art and Tradition in North Carolina Pottery,” at the North Carolina Museum of Art, in 2005, and “Great Pots from the Traditions of North & South Carolina,” at the North Carolina Pottery Center in Seagrove, NC, where he was Board President for several years. Hewitt says, “Regional pottery traditions are like rare wildflowers that only grow in particular places. It’s a pleasure to tend these Carolina roots and see them bloom again.”

His own work speaks of a fine craft sensibility rooted in place, materials, skill, and the complexity of utility. Known for his high production of small functional pots and massive planters, jars, and vases, Hewitt dances nimbly between the old and new, the traditional and innovative. He writes about the pleasures of usefulness, “Your hand is an unmediated venue, as worthy a place for art as the wall of a museum, your table and sink are a forum for the contemplation of shape, color, and ornament. Pots are talismans of hope amidst the relentless prattle of life.”

Mark Hewitt Big Jar

Hewitt and several of his former apprentices also make extremely large pots which command attention and will be extensively featured in “Thrown Together.” While honoring their regional ancestors and traditional practice, his apprentices acknowledge outside aesthetic influences as well as ever changing cultural and economic forces.

Hewitt writes, “Apprenticeship provides a rigorous foundation for the development of skill and good work habits; it does not impose a template on future aesthetic expression. The pots in this exhibition are a reflection on North Carolina’s pottery history and practices while demonstrating the relentless pursuit of individual expression. I had a hand in teaching my apprentices the songs embedded in the pots of this place, and now they’re singing their own.”

The composer Igor Stravinsky writes, “A real tradition is not the relic of a past that is irretrievably gone; it is a living force that animates and informs the present….Far from implying the repetition of what has been, tradition presupposes the reality of what endures. It appears as an heirloom, a heritage that one receives on condition of making it bear fruit before passing it on to one’s descendants.”

Story details, photos, and the online store for Thrown Together: Tradition, Apprenticeship, and Individualism can be found on the website, or by contacting Mark or Carol Hewitt at [email protected].


Apprentices brief bios and links

Daniel Johnston’s work pushes vigorously against the boundaries of scale, while his installations of multiple big pots, including one permanently at the North Carolina Museum of Art, ask questions about the relationship between art and craft. He was raised in rural NC, and after apprenticing with Hewitt worked in a traditional big pot making village in Northeast Thailand. He lives and works near Seagrove and is represented nationally by the Gerald Peters Collection in Santa Fe, NM.

Matt Jones lives in Western NC, outside of Asheville, where he’s been operating his pottery and raising a family for 26 years. In addition to a full line of domestic table and garden ware, he has a reverence for the great jugs and jars that were the backbone of the utilitarian Carolina potters in the 19th and early twentieth centuries. He is known primarily as a decorator, inspired by the natural world and Chinese brush painting and European and American reinterpretations of blue on white painting that became commonplace 400 years ago. His slip trailing technique under alkaline glaze is equally impressive, and he has occasionally turned his decorative sensibility to political satire and social criticism.

Alex Matisse moved to the South to attend Guilford College but left after a year to pursue an apprenticeship with Jones and then Hewitt. After three years of apprenticeship, he founded East Fork Pottery outside Asheville, NC, where he built a large wood kiln and workshop. In 2013 he was joined by Johnston’s apprentice, John Vigeland, and together with Matisse’s wife, Connie, they launched a line of gas-fired dinnerware. The line caught on and the three eventually moved their growing business to Asheville and sold the original site of East Fork to finance the company’s expansion into industrial manufacturing. Today East Fork employs 115 people and produces upwards of 500,000 pieces of pottery a year and has been featured in the NY Times.

Joseph Sand originally from Austin, MN, lives and works near Randleman, NC, with his wife and children. He makes brightly colored functional wares as well as powerful, large, angular sculpture, using techniques acquired after his apprenticeship with Hewitt, attesting to his curiosity and prior training as a sculptor at UM, Duluth.

Lara O’Keefe was born in Pittsboro, NC, where she now has her studio. She studied ceramics at Warren Wilson College and then worked at Mangum Pottery in Weaverville before a three-year apprenticeship at Jugtown Pottery in Seagrove. With her vibrant imagination she splices the decorative and ornamental onto strong functional forms at her pottery, while being a single mom of three girls – a teenager, and twin tweens. Lara also teaches at the local community college and a clay studio in Chatham County.

Stillman Browning-Howe, the most recent graduate from the Hewitt Pottery, produces compelling work using the complexity of long wood-fired surfaces to highlight his simple, elegant forms. Stillman has been exploring these longer firings since 2021 when he used local clay to make the bricks to build his own wood-fired kiln. Alongside his partner and potter, Hannah Cupp, their energy and excitement is palpable as they build a pottery from scratch near Seagrove.

Images can be found here.