Mark Hewitt Pottery > Thrown Together Exhibition

Thrown Together Exhibition

Thrown Together

For exhibition website, including online store that goes live Tuesday, March 19 at 10am, go to:

Thrown Together: Tradition, Apprenticeship, and Individualism

You can find the Press Release and images there as well.

Thrown Together: Tradition, Apprenticeship, and Individualism,” is a bold ceramic exhibition celebrating the contemporary expression of North Carolina’s long, rich, and complex pottery traditions, 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.

The exhibition presents the work of the influential potter, Mark Hewitt, described by the eminent folklorist, Henry Glassie as, “A great American Master,” as well as pottery made by six of his apprentices who now operate their own successful pottery enterprises in North Carolina:  Daniel Johnston, Matt Jones, Alex Matisse, Joseph Sand, Lara O’Keefe, and Stillman Browning-Howe.

Over 150 pots, from mugs to very large vessels, will illuminate how these seven potters 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 contributes their own strong and unique voice to the show. Discrete identity precedes an apprenticeship and reasserts itself once the training ends. Unique aesthetic influences and impulses gain traction as time and careers advance, and this show illustrates the six individual potters’ progressions as well as the continually evolving 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 Hewitt, 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.”

Hewitt’s 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.

About the pleasures of usefulness Hewitt writes, “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.”

“Thrown Together” also offers an extensive and commanding selection of large, life size pots made by Hewitt, Johnston, Jones, Sand, O’Keefe and Browning-Howe – pots of size and form rarely seen outside museums and private collections.

While honoring their regional ancestors and traditional practice, Hewitt’s apprentices, now master potters themselves, and training their own 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.”

Mark Hewitt comes from a ceramic upbringing, albeit an industrial one. His grandfather was CEO of Spode, the renowned English fine china manufacturer, and his father was Director of International Sales. Groomed to follow in their footsteps, Hewitt rebelled and sought an apprenticeship with the celebrated English studio potter, Michael Cardew where he apprenticed for three years. Then followed two years with a former Cardew student, Todd Piker, who had set up Cornwall Bridge Pottery in Northwest CT. While there Hewitt met his future wife, Carol, and together they moved to Pittsboro, NC where he set up his own pottery in 1983. Hewitt’s aesthetic includes the use of local clays and glaze materials, and firing his pots in a large wood burning kiln, about the size of a school bus,  35’ long, 9’ wide and 6’ tall.

Earlier travels had taken Hewitt to West Africa and Southeast Asia to study ceramic traditions there. Hewitt has been pivotal in identifying the key elements of the North and South Carolina traditions and fusing them into a vibrant and influential contemporary style, incorporating all those varied international influences. His creative outpouring of vibrant, elegant, useful pots has attracted a large and loyal clientele.

“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.”

Mark Hewitt, potter