Now a mainstay of Hill Center’s arts programming, Pottery on the Hill exhibits work from some of the nation’s most prestigious ceramic artists. It presents an opportunity for area residents to experience master craftspeople whose work straddles the line between fine art and functional houseware. Hill Center curates the expo in a setting more reminiscent of an art fair, where each artist has been carefully selected by renowned ceramicist Dan Finnegan.
A ceramic artist based in Fredericksburg, Va., Finnegan has selected every artist since the inception of Pottery on the Hill in 2011. “Pots for use is the theme of the show,” he explains.
Finnegan selects ceramicists who produce “useful pots – always the emphasis for me.” As a returning artist, Finnegan shares a common passion with other exhibitors in producing items for everyday use.
This year’s list of participants includes Bob Briscoe (Minneapolis), Bulldog Pottery-Bruce Gholson & Samantha Henneke (Seagrove, N.C.), Trista Depp Chapman (Fredericksburg, Va.), Naomi Dalglish (Bakersville, N.C.), Warren Frederick (Warrenton, Va.), Ryan Greenheck (Philadelphia), Michael Hunt (Bakersville, N.C.), Matthew Hyleck (Baltimore), Michael Kline (Bakersville, N.C.), Matthew Metz (Alfred Station, N.Y.), Donna Polseno (Floyd, Va.), Mark Shapiro (Worthington, Mass.), Stacy Snyder (Arlington, Va.), Sam Taylor (Westhampton, Mass.), and Catherine White (Warrenton, Va.).
Pottery on the Hill begins with a ticketed preview reception on Friday, Oct. 27, at 6:30 p.m. This allows ticketholders exclusive access to purchase work and to meet the artists in a less hurried environment. In addition, Hill Center will offer the first 100 attendees at the preview reception a complimentary sampler cup created by one of the artists.
On Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 28 and 29, Pottery on the Hill opens free of charge to the general public.
Works from this year’s participants include mugs and cups, plates, bowls, beer steins and shot glasses, vases, platters, sushi dishes, and baking vessels, all of which are one-of-a-kind, handmade objects which one can enjoy daily.
The organizers of Pottery of the Hill have always sought to include interactive events or workshops to connect audiences with the ceramic-making process. Past activities have included a “Pottery Slam” with potters shaping vessels in front of an audience and a “Pottery Truck” where audience members could glaze and fire a mug.
This year, Northeast-based District Clay will offer audience members an opportunity to try their hand at raku firing with a special interactive workshop on Saturday, Oct. 28, 11 a.m.-2 p.m.
Historians trace the origin of raku to 1550s Japan. Sixteenth-century Zen Buddhist masters mention the use of raku, which literally means “happiness in the accident” in Japanese. The monks preferred this use of stoneware for tea ceremonies, as the aesthetic embodies the Buddhist qualities of simplicity and naturalness.
Raku firing uses a specialty kiln which facilitates a low-temperature firing process to create vibrant colors. The process takes on a magical quality as the four elements of the universe – earth, fire, air, and water – come together to create stoneware.
In the United States, contemporary raku methods differ slightly from those in Japan. They involve removing the pottery while it is bright red and combining it with materials that ignite the clay, such as sawdust or paper. The lack of oxygen during firing creates cracks and intensely rich colors.
A raku kiln will be placed in Hill Center’s outdoor plaza where participants will have the opportunity to decorate and glaze a pot and watch it get fired. Those who elect not to participate can still witness the glazing and firing process.
“The raku firing during Pottery on the Hill represents a chance for the community to make something unique,” says Finnegan. “They can glaze or paint their pot, then watch it transform before their eyes.” He adds that the event will enable visitors “to step into the shoes of a potter for just a brief moment to experience the excitement and anticipation of the finished product.”
Pottery on the Hill 2017 Schedule
Fri., Oct. 27, 6:30 p.m.
Tickets: $30/advance, $35/day of
Tickets are available at www.PotteryontheHillDC.org or by calling 202-549-4172.
Free Show & Sale
Sat., Oct. 28: 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
Sun., Oct. 29: 11 a.m.-4 p.m.
Sat., Oct. 28, 11 a.m.-2 p.m.
Hill Center is located in the historic Old Naval Hospital at 921 Pennsylvania Ave. SE, one block from the Eastern Market Metro. Visit it at www.hillcenterdc.org or www.potteryonthehilldc.org.
Phil Hutinet is the publisher of East City Art, dedicated to DC’s visual arts. For more information visit www.eastcityart.com.