A New Book Explores the Practices of 38 Black Ceramicists Working Across Generations to Define the Medium
Morel Doucet, “Skin Congregate on the Eve of Every Mountain” (2019), slip-cast porcelain with decals. Photo by David Gary Lloyd, courtesy of the artist and Galerie Myrtis
Ceramics is both versatile and enduring, allowing for myriad aesthetic sensibilities, degrees of functionality, and the ability to last lifetimes. A new book published by Schiffer Craft gathers the practices of 38 Black Americans who have harnessed the broad potential of clay as they explore various aspects of history, politics, craft, and culture.
Ranging from the colonial east coast and the Harlem Renaissance to the current century, Contemporary Black American Ceramic Artists compiles interviews, photos, and short essays into an expansive, diverse survey. In addition to artists working today like Morel Doucet (previously), Chotsani Elaine Dean, and Danielle Carelock, the book also recounts earlier generations who used the medium as a catalyst for their creative practices. Augusta Savage (1892-1962), for example, is known for translating the humanity of her subjects into figurative clay forms. She also went on to found the Savage Studio for Arts and Crafts in 1930s New York and helped secure funding for her students as part of the Works Progress Administration.
The book also recognizes the contributions of nearly 200 ceramicists who were enslaved and working in commercial potteries in Edgefield, South Carolina. Among those is Dave the Potter, who is thought to have produced more than 100,000 stoneware vessels throughout his lifetime.
Contemporary Black American Ceramic Artists, written by donald a clark and Chotsani Elaine Dean, is currently available for pre-order on Bookshop.
Paul S. Briggs, “Double Cuttle” (2011), stoneware, glaze, 12 inches. Photo courtesy of the artist
Chotsani Elaine Dean, “Memory Spoon: ‘minding my garden, as they did with their gardens’” (2021), ceramic, porcelain, paper clay, silica sand, black sand, resin embedded with dried flowers grown in the artist’s garden, 13.5 × 4.5 × 4.25 inches. Photo courtesy of Chotsani Elaine Dean