Contemporary North Carolina ceramics at The Mint Museum

Building on talent and tradition, ceramic artists leave their mark through clay creations in the Mint’s permanent collection

By Annie Carlano, Senior Curator of Craft, Design & Fashion, and Rebecca Elliot, Assistant Curator of Craft, Design & Fashion

Locally, across the country, and across the pond, North Carolina is known as the “clay state.”  With an abundance of clay in the soil from the Piedmont to the mountains, centuries of pottery making, and generations of families making objects of exceptional craft and design, by the early 20th century an appreciation for North Carolina ceramics grew. In the 1960s, amid the back-to-the-earth cultural movement, pottery was collected, exhibited, and published widely, and the was the subject of scholarly inquiries and symposia.

Building on the talent and traditions of the past, in the 21st century, North Carolina has attracted potters and sculptors from throughout the world who seek good local clay bodies, but a community of makers and a lifestyle that values simplicity.

North Carolina ceramics is one of the great strengths of the Mint Museum’s permanent collection. Its contemporary holdings continue to grow through the generosity of many individuals. Striving to represent the full range of artistic production throughout the state, the Mint has amassed a collection that includes jugs, tableware, sculpture, and installation art. A sampling is featured here for your enjoyment.

Fine functional and decorative objects are also featured in the Mint Museum Store at Mint Museum Uptown.

 

Cristina  Córdova (United States, 1976-). Preludios y Partidas, 2012, ceramic, concrete, steel, resin, 129.5 x 36 x 180 inches. Project Ten Ten Ten Commission. Museum Purchase: Funds provided by Laura and Michael Grace, Donna and Al De Molina, Lorne Lassiter and Gary Ferraro, and Yvonne and Richard McCracken. 2014.30A-J. Image © Mint Museum of Art, Inc. © Cristina Córdova, 2012.

 

Cristina Córdova’s figurative installation, Preludios y Partidas, commands a wall at one end of the Clay Gallery on Level 3 at Mint Museum Uptown. This subtle yet powerful psychological work was created nearly a decade ago yet is prescient. Córdova says: “In understanding this piece as a metaphorical topography, I wanted to use the title to hint as to what that corresponding psycho-emotional space would be. This landscape is one of transition and like the reference to the distillment of reason and logic from uncertainty and chaos, these figures are in the preliminary charged states (preludios) before a great action (partidas). Although the floating concrete elements could hint of the residual vestiges of a previous reality, I am not thinking of it as further leading to an ending but to the beginning of a new cycle. Common to the human experience are profound shifts where the ground gives way and one is thrust into powerful periods of self-reflection, growth, and renewed vision; this is how this space looks in my mind right before the next grand launch.”

Born in Boston, raised in Puerto Rico, Córdova received a BA, magna cum laude, University of Puerto Rico at Mayagüez, Colegio de Agricultura y Artes Mecánicas, Mayagüez, Puerto Rico, in 1998, and an MFA in Ceramics from New York State College of Ceramics, Alfred University, Alfred, New York, in 2002. Her sculptures are included in other prestigious museum collections including the Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C., Fuller Craft Museum in Massachusetts, Museum of Contemporary Art of Puerto Rico, and the Mobile Museum in Alabama, as well as important private collections. The recipient of numerous awards and honors, she currently lives and works at Penland School of Craft in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina.


Alexander Matisse (United States, 1984-), East Fork Pottery (Asheville, NC, founded 2010). Two Tall Vases, clay, glaze, 26 x 16 inches. Gift of the Delhom Service League: 2014 Potters Market Invitational Purchase. 2014.74.1a-b. © Alexander Matisse, 2014

 

Two Tall Vases form an elegant sculptural pair illustrating the skill and aesthetic of clay artist and entrepreneur Alex Matisse. The large vessel forms are beautifully shaped with hints of the handmade in the faint throwing lines and gracefully manipulated drip glazes. Based on traditional North Carolina storage jugs and inspired by English and Asian wares, Two Tall Vases signal a transitional period in Matisse’s career, when his mastery of regional forms and global techniques led to a period of experimentation and the emergence of his unique contemporary style.

Matisse grew up in Groton, Massachusetts and studied at Guilford College in Greensboro, North Carolina where he discovered the rich history of the ceramics of our state. Dropping out of college to undertake apprenticeships with Matt Jones and Mark Hewitt, he started East Fork Pottery at the age of 25 along with his now wife Connie Coady Matisse, and John Vigeland. East Fork Pottery was founded on the principles of William Morris (British, 1834- 1896) that life is improved by living with objects that are beautiful, handmade, useful, and affordable. With their clean lines and muted colors, the simple everyday tableware and objects are staples in several restaurant dining rooms and are popular on wedding registries.


Matthew S. Jones (United States 1971-). Storage Jar, stoneware, 20 x 15.5 inches.  Gift of an Anonymous Donor to Commemorate the First Potters Market Invitational. 2005.73.1. © Matthew S. Jones, 2005

In Storage Jar, with its broad strong rim, a robust vernacular shape is transformed into an elegant vessel, through its small delicate handles, surfaces markings, and glaze. Matt Jones achieves a timelessness in this and other works in the Mint’s collection through his deep knowledge and mastery of historic forms, the wood firing process, salt and alkaline glazes, and slip trailing. According to Jones, “It is important to me that my work is grounded in the Carolina traditions that go back 150 years, but I feel quite free to incorporate a modern sensibility and ideas from other cultures.”

Matt Jones fell in love with clay as a student at Earlham College in Indiana. His academic education was followed by an apprenticeship with Todd Piker at Cornwall Bridge Pottery in Connecticut, and another with Mark Hewitt of Pittsboro, North Carolina. In 1998 Jones set up his own pottery studio in Leicester, North Carolina. Today the studio is owned and run by Matt and his wife Christine. Using blue pipe clay—so named because it was once used to make pipe tobacco heads—Matt Jones continues to make a variety of garden pots and vessels.


Benjamin W. Owen lll (American, 1968-). MiSe Vase, 2016, stoneware, 41 x 24 inches. Daisy Wade Bridges Purchase Prize from the 2016 Potters Market Invitational, given by the Delhom Service League. 2016.38.1

The MiSe Vase is a stunning example of Ben Owen III’s artistry. Though massive in size, it is perfectly symmetrical, displaying Owen’s great skill in throwing pots at any scale. The vessel’s rich blue color with hints of burgundy around the rim and on the handles demonstrates his mastery of a wide variety of glazes and his willingness to continually push himself to develop new glaze types. Its shape and the title MiSe reflect his knowledge of Asian ceramics, especially the Chinese ceramics tradition. In 2007, Owen traveled to China as part of a delegation of American political and community leaders and had the honor of presenting his work as gifts for the delegation’s Chinese hosts. During that trip, he also visited museums and pottery villages in China and Japan.

Owen comes from a long line of potters who settled North Carolina in the eighteenth century and made functional wares for the next two hundred years. Owen learned pottery beginning at the age of 8 from his grandfather, Ben Owen Sr., who had worked at Jugtown Pottery near Seagrove and later established his own pottery, Old Plank Road Pottery in Westmoore, North Carolina. Ben Owen III studied business at Pfeiffer University and earned a BFA in ceramics from East Carolina University in 1993. During the 1990s, he traveled to visit potters in Japan, Australia, and New Zealand. Since 1999, he has operated his own studio at the Old Plank Road Pottery.


David Stuempfle (American, 1960-). Large Jar, 2012, stoneware, 17.5 x 21 inches. Gift of Daisy Wade Bridges. 2012.75.1

 

This Large Jar by David Stuempfle illustrates his skill at throwing large forms and achieving interesting glazing effects solely through the chemical reaction of clay and wood ash in the kiln. Dripping lines of brown and splotches of off-white add visual interest and complement the jar’s round form, accenting its background hues of rich brown, beige, and charcoal gray. Stuempfle makes his own clay body and slip from a mix of clay from his land and elsewhere in Seagrove, North Carolina, and commercially mined clays.

Originally from Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, Stuempfle first studied ceramics at the High Mowing School in New Hampshire. He then worked for many years as a journeyman potter in various states, including Tennessee and Wisconsin, as well as in Asia. When he relocated to North Carolina, he worked first for M.L. Owens Pottery and Jugtown Pottery before settling permanently in Seagrove. He built his wood-burning kiln there in 1992 and specialized in salt-glazed stoneware for several years but has recently stopped using salt glaze. His sources of inspiration include Chinese, Japanese, and Korean pottery.


Pamela Owens (American, 1958-), Jugtown Pottery (Seagrove, NC, 1921-), Jennie L. Keatts (American). Jar with Lid, 2006, stoneware, silver, 6 x 4 inches. Gift of the Delhom Service League: 2006 Potters Market Invitational Purchase. 2006.67A-B. Copyright 2006, Pamela L Owens

 

On this lidded jar, Pam Owens has thrown a classic shape inspired by traditional Asian vases and complemented it with glazes in rich jewel tones of deep turquoise, burgundy, blue, and purple. The placement of the burgundy glaze around the jar’s shoulder highlights the elegance of its form. The jar’s small scale and silver lid further indicate that its purpose is decorative. The lid is by Jennie (Jennifer) Lorette Keatts, Pam’s sister, a jeweler in Seagrove, NC whose jewelry often features glazed ceramic “gems” made at Jugtown Pottery. 

The Lorette sisters were raised in New Hampshire. Pamela first studied pottery there in 1975 and became an apprentice at Jugtown in 1977. After further apprenticeships in New Hampshire, she returned to Jugtown in 1980 and three years later married its owner Vernon Owens. Since then they have been the principal potters, as well as managers of this historic pottery, which was founded in 1921 by Jacques and Juliana Busbee. The Busbees were artists from Raleigh who sought to reinvigorate the North Carolina pottery tradition by introducing Asian forms and glazes. The grandfather of Ben Owen III, Ben Owen senior, worked at Jugtown Pottery as a potter from 1923 to 1959. Ben Owen and Vernon Owens are from the same family line, although Vernon’s grandfather added the ‘s’ to his name. 

What’s the difference between pottery and ceramics?

Ceramics are clay objects that have been heated and chemically changed. Clay is porous and water-soluble, but ceramics are not. Pottery is a subcategory of ceramics that refers to vessels but not sculptures. The vessels can be functional or not. Pottery also has something of a rustic connotation, such that earthenware and stoneware are called pottery, whereas porcelain objects are called ceramics.

September is pottery month at The Mint Museum Store

Perfectly pottery: Shop 8 of NC’s top pottery makers wares at The Mint Museum Store

The Mint Museum Store is a one-stop-shop to see many different styles of some of North Carolina’s top pottery artists, including Ben Owen, East Fork Pottery, and Erin Janow. Throughout the month of September all pottery at the store is 25% off. Start your holiday shopping with a visit to the store, and learn about some of the top pottery makers represented at The Mint Museum.

Micro Crystal Bowl, $310; Tang Vase Blue Micro Crystal, $320; Egg Vase Blue Micro Crystal, $320

Ben Owen III 

Ben Owen III continues a family tradition of pottery making that dates back to the 1700’s. His forefathers came to North Carolina from England to poly their craft and furnish storage jars and other utilitarian wares to early settlers. One of the most acclaimed and collected of today’s current North Carolina potters, Owen began his craft at an early age under the tutelage of his grandfather, Ben Owen I, a master potter himself. Owen went on to formally study ceramics at East Carolina University, where he garnered many awards and a BFA in ceramics in 1993. His pottery reflects a foundation in traditional designs alongside Asian influence. His work can be found in many museums including ours, The Mint Museum. Also, notably, The Smithsonian Museum of Art and the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. Singer/songwriter James Taylor and golfer Arnold Palmer are among the notables whose collections include works by Ben Owen III.


Dean and Martin Potter, $60-$200.

Dean and Martin Pottery

Jeff Dean and Stephanie Nicole Martin, both born and raised in the heart of North Carolina, rely on their love of nature and the land as inspiration for living the life of potters. Jeff received a BFA in ceramic design from East Carolina University. Balancing form, function and design, his forms usually come from something seen on a city walk or in nature. Stephanie received a BFA in design with a concentration in ceramics from UNC-Greensboro. Often utilizing digital, as well as printmaking, techniques, she builds the surfaces of her vessels. She makes hand-built and wheel-thrown objects using color, pattern, floral and figurative images to evoke a feeling of nostalgia. Watching her grandmother sew and quilt influenced her sense of craft and design, as well as her love of 1960’s and 70’s culture and music.


 

East Fork pottery cereal bowls, $42.

East Fork Pottery 

East Fork Pottery, founded in 2010 by Alexander Matisse (great-grandson of Henri Matisse) and Connie Coady, is nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains in Asheville, North Carolina. East Fork designs, manufactures and sells durable ceramic dishware. Their lines are simple and fundamental. Unadorned, the work is distilled to its essential elements: form and function. It is durable and timeless, resistant to fashion and trends. Alexander along with their team of talented artisans, make their pots with dynamic, iron-rich clays dug from the American south East and colored with glazes formulated and mixed in-house. The glazes are often limited-edition colors and the collection of colors we have in the store, are from a limited batch, unavailable now from the studio itself.


Erin Janow Sake Set of 6, $180

Erin Janow 

Erin Janow is a potter, a wife, a mother, and a cook. Born and raised in Indiana, Erin graduated from Indiana University earning a bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts and Art History. She began her apprenticeship working for Magnum Pottery in North Carolina as an understudy, honing her craft there for nearly seven years. In January 2009, she ventured forth as a solo potter to develop her own line. She began devoting much of her time developing new glazes and techniques and, along with her husband, a jewelry maker, working in a studio conveniently found in the basement of their home in Asheville. Erin has said, “My work is designed to be user friendly and functional. Because I also have a passion for cooking and family, my hope is that others will find happiness using my pottery when cooking meals for their families, in turn.”


Jon Ransmeier basket, $550

John Ransmeier

John Ransmeier grew up in Asheville, North Carolina. John was introduced to clay in 1968, and just two years later, he built his first kick wheel. John worked with many potters perfecting his art and co-founded the Biltmore Clay Company in Asheville in 1976. His work can be seen in galleries throughout the country and has been collected by such notables as Oprah Winfrey. The daily challenges of ceramic materials and techniques become rewards when he passes on his work to a receptive new owner.


Jugtown teapot, $198 and square teacups $26

Jugtown Pottery

Jugtown Pottery is a working pottery and an American Craft Shop located in a grove of trees and bamboo eight miles south of Seagrove, in Moore County, NC. It is just off Busbee Road, a road named for Jacques and Juliana Busbee, the founders of Jugtown. Both artists with a love of craft and form, together they created Jugtown Pottery, melding forms from ancient traditions with those developed in North Carolina. In 1917 they created The Village Store and Tea Room in New York City, and in 1922 they began stamping each piece with the circular Jugtown Ware stamp.

The forms derive from simplicity and practice, a continuous line, then a complimentary glaze and occasional decoration. Drawing from the North Carolina tradition, you will find jugs, pitchers and candlesticks in wood fired Salt Glaze and Frogskin, and tableware in green, blue, brown, and gray. Vases, bowls, and jars in glazes made with wood ash, local clays, copper reds, greens, and iron earth tones, have origins in world clay traditions.Jugtown thrives on the aesthetic foundation laid out by the Busbee’s. Vernon Owens, recipient of the NC Folk Heritage Award and the NEA National Heritage Fellowship, wife Pam, son Travis and daughter Bayle are the main potters, while Bobby Owens mixes clay and glazes the pieces.


Turtle Island drunk jug, $190

Turtle Island Pottery

Owned by Maggie and Freeman Jones, Turtle Island Pottery is named for an American Indian creation story. In its simplest form, a turtle swam to the bottom of the waters that covered the world and brought up mud to make the land. Turtle hatched her eggs on this land, and everything has come from this. Maggie and Freeman have made their living from the very stuff of creation since 1984. Their handmade stoneware pottery is both functional and decorative, with a sculptural feel. Maggie says of her process, “When I think and plan about the clay and glazes in the heat of the kiln, I envision lava flowing, crystals growing and flowers blooming. Earth, air, fire and water minerals reacting with one another, like when the earth was being formed.”


Paradox Pottery by Jim Whalen

Paradox Pottery 

Jim Whalen’s one-of-a-kind vessels are turned on a potter’s wheel, then burnished and coated with terra sigillata, an ultra-refined clay slip that can give a soft sheen when applied to bone-dry wares and, if polished or burnished while still damp, may give a high gloss. The ancient Greeks and Romans used this technique in lieu of glaze. After bisque firing, patterns and images are created with wax resist. The patterns he creates are sometimes mathematical, sometimes emotional, but always drawn from within and are intended to evoke images of an evolving planet. His unique firing process explores the lower temperature ranges of wood, salt, and soda, enhancing these patterns. Because the process is challenging and unpredictable, each piece achieves a uniqueness that is impossible to duplicate.

Tune In sculpture

‘Tune In’ installation connects the past and future of our society

Tune In sculpture
“Tune In” is a 4,000 pound sculpture designed by Charlotte-based artist Richard Lazes.

Tune In puts focus on where we’ve come as a society and where we are going … for better or worse 

A larger-than-life outdoor diorama is coming to the plaza at the Levine Center for the Arts just outside Mint Museum Uptown. The 4,000-pound multidimensional diorama titled Tune In, created by local artist Richard Lazes and his studio team of fellow creatives at the Art Factory, is a sculpture of six stacked televisions from the 1960s in an enclosed room with wallpaper, pictures and linoleum that replicate a TV room of the time.

Tune In will be installed on Wells Fargo Plaza outside Mint Museum Uptown in tandem with the grand re-opening of the museum. The installation will be accompanied by food and live music during the Mint’s grand re-opening celebration. (Museums currently are grouped in Phase III opening guidelines. Re-opening dates will be announced when the latest guidelines from North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper are confirmed).

Televisions in the installation display a collage of rolling snippets of media programming from the 1950s and ’60s, including news segments like the launch of Apollo 11, sitcoms and tv dramas, live musical performances by the likes of Little Richard and The Beatles. It’s a reflection of history that is mirrored in society today, as well as a display of media that has—and continues to—heavily influence the way people think and act. He hopes that Tune In stimulates conversations among viewers to consider where we have come from and where we are going as a society.

Lazes wanted to create a piece of art that put the pandemic crisis of 2020 and social unrest in some type of historical perspective. The massive sculpture was created by dissecting vintage television sets found in antique shops, and then assembled into a precarious formation indicative of the dysfunctional state of our society today. Six LED screens replace the old television tubes. In order to create content for the screens, he created a video collage mined from 100 hours of TV shows and news media during the 1960s to create iconic TV shows, great musical performers by the entertainers of that day and news clips of current events during that time period. 

“It’s been 60 years since these programs were broadcast on TV and while video programing has become more politically correct it is unclear whether American culture and society has become any more fair and equitable,” he says.

Lazes recognizes that shows like “The Jeffersons,” “The Little Rascals,” Lucille Ball, and “Sanford and Son” were misogynistic, chauvinistic and racist, portraying a very shallow  and prejudiced view of women and blacks. “These portrayals of minorities were indicative of that period. While we have moved a long way to a more magnanimous and politically correct viewpoint in our media, I wonder if our society has really changed in the way we treat one another,” he says. 

 

Richard Lazes working on the assembly of the “Tune In” diorama space.

 

But television programming of that period also brought families together to watch favorite shows.

“With the introduction of the internet, personal computers, and smartphones, we have become isolated and no longer came together with friends and families to take in a shared media experience. Perhaps a silver lining of the pandemic is that it has brought us back together as families to sit in front of the TV set as newscasters and politicians brief us on the status of the pandemic. With all of the discord and alienation in society, we are all in need of some introspection and a positive message so I hope that my sculpture will contribute to the healing process.”

 

“Tune In” on view in Martha’s Vineyard.

 

Tune In is scheduled to travel throughout 10 cities, including Charlotte, Washington D.C., Boston, New York, Chicago, Atlanta and Los Angeles. At each stop of the exhibit, Lazes along with co-director Aaron Atkinson will interview and film local artists to document how they are leveraging their creative talent to bring hope to each city. The documentary “Artists in Quarantine: American Creativity During the 2020 Pandemic” will showcase how creatives took their craft to showcase truth, justice and hope in a time of despair, and is scheduled to stream on Netflix in 2022.

15+ items that celebrate women, and the women’s right to vote

 

Suffragette Bookend from Silk Road Bazaar (fair trade and made by women), $36 // Susan B. Anthony Ornament from Silk Road Bazaar (fair trade and made by women), $24 // VOTE Enamel Pin, $12 // 19th Amendmints, $4

15+ items that celebrate women, and the centennial of women’s suffrage

This one’s for the women — and men who respect women’s rights. This year marks the centennial anniversary of women getting the right to vote. On Aug. 26, 1920, the 19th amendment passed giving women the right to vote. The vote opened opportunities for women to innovate, create and legislate for women’s rights — and art by women for women has always been a social commentary to push change. As a matter of fact, The Mint Museum’s history is rich with generations of women dedicating time to establish and grow The Mint Museum, including Mary Myers Dwelle who was the driving force behind the creation of the first art museum in North Carolina. Read more about how the Mint’s history is women’s history.

The curated list of art, books, cards and more below celebrate the strength and voice of women, and are all available at the Mint Museum Store.

 

Hood Feminism: Notes from the Women That a Movement Forgot by Mikki Kendall $26  // Amazons, Abolitionists, and Activists: A Graphic History of Women’s Fight for Their Rights by Mikki Kendall and A. D’Amico, $19.99.

Books that tell “her”story.


 

eeBoo 100 Piece Votes for Women, $18 // 500 Piece Women’s March Puzzle, $24

Pandemic puzzle project with a lesson. Get it for the kids and you. eeBoo is “Woman Owned. Mother Run. Sustainable Sourced.”


The Illustrated Feminist: 50 Postcards by Aura Lewis, $15.99

Send a note of inspiration with these notecards that celebrate strong women.


Dean and Martin Pottery (pictured pottery is made by Stephanie Nicole Martin) $60-$198

A reminder in every sip of the different women and how each has made a difference in their own way.


RBG bookend from Silk Road Bazaar (fair trade and made by women), $36 // RBG puzzle, $24 // RBG mug, $16

The notorious R.B.G once said “Fight for the things you care about, but do it in a way that will lead others to join you.”


“The New Woman’s Survival Catalog,” $30

Originally published in 1973, The New Woman’s Survival Catalog is a survey of the second-wave feminist effort across the United States.


Calhoun & Co. throw blankets, $130. Designs are created from illustrations and artwork by founder Kerry Stokes

A throw with a thoughtful message and design — something we can all use a little more of these days.

Brazilian artists, and brothers, Fernando and Humberto Campana tell all about creating and executing art together

Humberto and Fernando Campana. Photo by Bob Wolfenson

“Through experimentation and our life experiences, we allow the creative chaos to take over and, eventually, we discover combinations of colors and materials”

Pioneers of disruptive design, the art of Fernando and Humberto Campana is strongly rooted in Brazilian culture and traditions, and carries universal values in its core, such as freedom and human dignity, by searching self-identity through life experiences. By incorporating the idea of transformation and reinvention, their creative process raises everyday materials to nobility, bringing not only creativity into design, but also Brazilian characteristics — the colors, the mixtures, the creative chaos — the triumph of simple solutions, in an artistic and poetic way, including the piece “Kaiman Jacare” that is part of Mint’s permanent collection and in the latest exhibition New Days, New Works.

Based in Sao Paulo, Estudio Campana is constantly investigating new possibilities within design: from furniture making to architecture, landscaping, fashion, scenography and more, and are represented throughout the world. Below the brothers share about how they work together, their creative processes and inspirations, and hope for the future.

Fernando Campana (Brazilian, 1961–). Humberto Campana (Brazilian, 1953–). Kaiman Jacaré Sofa, velvet, polyurethane. Gift of the Tony Podesta Collection. 2014.75.12

Tell me a bit about yourselves and the type of art you specialize in. 

We are storytellers, we like to bridge disciplines and try not to define ourselves by a particular type of art. Our mantra is to let materials “speak” to us, from which point we discover what shape and function it can take. Through experimentation and our life experiences, we allow the creative chaos to take over and, eventually, we discover combinations of colors and materials (many times overlooked by most designers) that tell the stories from that experience, artistically and poetically.

Where is your studio located?

Our studio is located in São Paulo, Brazil, in a neighborhood called Santa Cecília. Today it is considered a cool place, thriving with hype galleries, bars, shops and restaurants, right next to mom-and-pop shops, discount clothes stores, little hardware stores.  When we started our practice there, back in the 1990s, it was considered a “no-go” zone due to the humble buildings and working-class population, but that’s exactly why we were attracted to it, for it was genuine and grassroots.

What’s it like working together from creation to execution of your artwork?

Humberto: Fernando and I complement each other very well. He starts from a bi-dimensional concept, making drawings, and often I bring that idea to life by researching materials, establishing a process, until it takes shape and comes into existence. I am interested in this process, and what happens behind the scenes, the role of the piece as it occupies a place in people’s homes. Fernando offers a distant gaze to my ideas, bringing a fresh outlook.

Fernando: It’s fair to say we have almost like a twin connection, certainly a spiritual one, although our thought process is different. When we are developing a new piece, there is an unspoken agreement between us, which is not always that smooth, but always with mutual respect. We also count with the support of our team at the studio, to help settle any standoffs.

What was your inspiration for Kaiman Jacare?

Our inspiration was the pre-historic animals, the dinosaurs. The idea was to create an oversized piece of furniture that resembles a tangle of giant scary creatures from that era. Each piece can be detached and reattached, allowing you to come up with several combinations. It’s a very comfortable, inviting, huggable composition, yet, it plays with the sense of being surrounded by these dangerous creatures, which we find quite provocative.

What is your favorite piece you’ve created?

Fernando: My favorite piece is still a very classic one, the Vermelha armchair, from 1998. We were fiddling around with different materials trying to come up with unusual upholstering when we picked up this roll of 500 meters of red rope and began to wrap it around a metal structure. It is our signature piece, produced by Italian manufacturer Edra, and part of several museums around the world.

1998, Vermelha Armchair @ Edra.

Humberto: I am very fond of our Plush Toy collection (2002) because it has a deep connection with affection. It started as an experiment to find new ways of upholstering, and soon it transformed itself into this whimsical universe reminiscent of our childhood, the memory of a favorite stuffed toy, and the sense of protection and comfort.

Cake Stool, Courtesy of Estudio Campana. Photo by Fernando Laszlo

How do people and your environment influence your art?

Fernando: These are an enormous influence for us, no doubt. We portray what we experience in our daily lives, especially in a country so culturally rich such as Brazil, with a unique viewpoint. Also, we grew up in the countryside, and nature was our main source of inspiration. Time had a different pace, giving us the chance to observe the landscape and animals in every season. That gave us the ability to pay attention to life as it unfolded. Once we moved to the city, we applied that same gaze towards people and their way of living, giving us a solid foundation for our design practice.

Humberto: Our work is like a snapshot of the world we experience. Places like the outskirts of São Paulo, Shanghai, the Amazon, the Sahara Desert, plus the people we encounter along the way. All of that fuels our imagination which is then materialized into objects.

2016, Pirarucu Armchair Pink. Courtesy of Estudio Campana. Photo by Fernando Laszlo (4)

Are you finding new inspiration for your art during these current events in the world?

Fernando: It’s been pretty hard to find inspiration, but I had the chance to travel to the countryside and the seaside during the quarantine, keeping a distance from the industrial world and immersing myself in nature. This period will gradually percolate and eventually, something will come out of it, creatively speaking.

Humberto: At the beginning of the quarantine, I was quite upset like everyone else. Aside from the tragic loss of life, we also have terrible leadership in Brazil. After a while, I began to come to terms with the fact I had to stay at home, and suddenly my house became my universe. I discovered ways of creating with what I had at hand, in the space I had. Lately, I have been doing collages and assemblages, and it has helped me a great deal to stay creatively active.

What positive-perspective changes in society would you like to see evolve from the protests, pandemic and social struggles of now?

Fernando: I would like humanity to be more respectful of the environment. And a more fraternal society, where we look out for each other. We had enough destruction, deforestation and pollution on this planet. It’s time we take responsibility for our actions and stop producing waste that keeps corroding our home.

Humberto: I think the world today is too divided. This antagonism doesn’t take us anywhere, it only leads to destruction with no clear way out. I wish people would become more united, have more respect and affection for each other, leaving their ego aside, so that we can find and follow a path to coexistence.

2018, Noah bench 2. Courtesy of Estudio Campana. Photo by Fernando Laszlo (13)

What are you reading, watching, and listening to these days?

Fernando: I just finished reading Les Misérables by Victor Hugo. I am also watching a few series on TV. One is called Girls from Ipanema which takes place in the ’60s, in Rio, during the Bossa-Nova years. I like to listen to all kinds of music, but Brazilian Popular Music (MPB) is always on top of my list.

Humberto: I have been reading articles about iconic designers and architects in English. I enjoy learning more about their life trajectories while reading them aloud and practicing the language.

Who are you following on social media right now?

Fernando: I am a bit of an outcast when it comes to social media. I don’t have any accounts on any platform. I am not attracted to this type of thing. I am much more interested in the real world.

Humberto: I am currently following Design Academy Eindhoven on Instagram (@designacademyeindhoven), from The Netherlands. I admire not only their outstanding conceptual design program, but also their intrinsic concern with training students to produce work in favor of a better planet.

The Mint Museum From Home is Sponsored by Chase.

Books for kids, and podcasts for parents that help teach justice for all

Credit: Publishers Weekly

Books for kids, and podcasts for parents that help teach justice for all

Teaching children anti-racist values begins when children are young, and continues as they go through the various ages and stages of childhood. Here are expert resources for reading and listening to help navigate the ins and outs of teaching future generations, and helping to break racial barriers for a clearer path to justice for all.

Picture books to graphic novels, and a lot inbetween

Dictionary for a Better World: Poems, Quotes, and Anecdotes from A to Z. Each entry presents a word related to creating a better world, such as ally, empathy, or respect, and related quotes and poems.

Antiracist Baby Picture Book. Written by founding director of the Boston University Center for Antiracist Research Ibram X. Kendi, Antiracist Baby Picture Book offers parents and their little ones nine ideas to build a more equitable world through playful text and bold illustrations.

Coretta Scott King book award winners. Awarded to African American writers and illustrators whose books explore African American experiences and humanity, the Coretta Scott King book award winners showcase a variety of fiction, biographies and nonfictions for babies to teens.

20 Picture Books for 2020: If a picture can say 1,000 words, then these stories that embrace race are a great beginning.

Early Childhood: Activism and Organizing. A smart guide to choosing anti-bias children’s books, plus a curated list of book that touch on social justice in a kid-friendly and explainable way.

An Anti-Racist Graphic Novel Reading List. For tweens and teens who love a graphic novel, these selections “address topics including the Civil Rights Movement, hip-hop, gentrification, white supremacy, the criminal justice system, police brutality, and the lives of black women.”

Podcasts for parents who want real talk about real issues

Parenting Forward. Author, blogger, community leader and mother Cindy Wang Brandt  features interviews with authors and thought leaders from progressive faith spaces, monthly listener question shows, and practical strategies for parents, grandparents, and anyone who loves children and wants to commit to treating children with justice in her podcast Parenting Forward.

Fare of the Free Child Akilah S. Richards and guests discuss the fears and costs of raising free black and brown children in a world that tends to diminish and dehumanize children of color in the Raising Free People podcast.

Raising White Kids with Jennifer Harvey. Dr. Jennifer Harvey discusses her book Raising White Kids: Bringing Up Children in a Racially Unjust America, as well her personal journey towards anti-racist organizing, educating, and child rearing. 

Talking Race With Your Young Child (NPR). A discussion between NPR journalist Noel King, anti-racism scholar and author Ibram Kendi, and author Renee Watson about how to be intentional when talking about race, plus tools to guide conversations with kids.

Make your own clay creations with three ingredients already in your pantry

Three ingredients plus three steps to make your own signature clay pots

Baking is one of the little things that brings us joy while at home during the pandemicCreating objects from common baking ingredients bridges the relationship between industry, craft, and consumer. A basic clay can be made from flour, salt, and water. Have fun using spices, such as turmeric and paprika, along with compost like coffee grinds to add texture and color to your clay. 

This project is inspired by Autoarchy on view at Mint Museum Uptown.

Studio Formafantasma (Eindhoven, The Netherlands, 2009–), Andrea Trimarchi (Italian, 1983–), Simone Farresin (Italian, 1980–). “Autarchy,” 2012, flour, agricultural waste, vegetable dyes, beeswax, pine tar. Museum Purchase: Funds provided by Missy Luczak-Smith and Doug Smith. 2013.18.1-158

SUPPLIES: 

  • Flour 
  • Salt 
  • Cold water 

OPTIONAL ITEMS

  • Spices or kitchen compost 
  • Rolling Pin 
  • Wax paper 
  • Ribbon or rope 
  • Metal tabs from soda cans or washers 
  • Glue 
  • Scissors 


STEPS:

Start with 1 cup flour and 1 cup salt. Add spices or other kitchen ingredients for color and texture. Slowly add up to one half cup cold water while mixing together to form a ball. It helps to knead the clay for several minutes. Add a few more drops of water if the clay is not holding together.

Consistency will vary depending on what type of flour you use and what you mix in. 

If the clay is too soft, knead in more flour until you have a clay that can stand when shaped. Divide dough and form into pots, bowls, or plates. 

Make small pinch pots from balls of clay and allow to dry on their own. Make larger bowls by rolling the clay into a slab and draping over containers with a piece of wax paper between the clay and container to keep it from sticking. Once the outside of the clay is dry, carefully remove it from the container and take off the waxed paper. The inside will need additional time to dry. It can take up to 24 hours total to dry depending on size.  

Option: Drape clay over a greased, oven-proof container and bake in a 300-degree oven for 20 to 30 minutes depending on size and thickness. Younger children should ask an older sibling or adult for help with the oven. 

Challenge: Decorate the outsides of your pieces with materials you have at home. 

Simplify: Let younger children use as play dough. The clay can be stored in an air-tight container for up to three days. Food coloring can also be used as a colorant.  

This idea brought to you by Maggie Burgan. 

The Mint Museum From Home is Presented By Chase.

Fiber artist Dr. Carolyn Mazloomi spearheads exhibition of quilts in response to George Floyd’s death

Known as one of the most influential African American quilt historians in the United States, Carolyn Mazloomi, PhD, who was trained as an aerospace engineer, has artwork showcased in numerous important museums around the world, including the Smithsonian American Art Museum, and American Museum of Design.

Fiber artist Dr. Carolyn Mazloomi’s passion for educating through art leads her to curate We Are the Story 

She thought she’d be settled into retirement by now, but Carolyn Mazloomi’s passion for her art pushes her to keep making, curating and working. Mazloomi, who earned a doctorate in aerospace engineering from the University of Southern California and worked as a pilot and Federal Aviation Administration crash site investigator, became involved in fiber artists and quilting in the early 1970s, and founded the Women of Color Quilters Network in 1985. She currently is spearheading and curating the exhibition We Are the Story, set to open at various sites throughout Minneapolis later this summer. The exhibition is a response to the death of George Floyd in the hands of a Minneapolis police officer.

We Are the Story is a series of six quilt exhibitions by the Women of Color Quilters Network, and Textile Center created under the curatorial direction of Mazloomi. The series is organized around the themes of remembering those lost to police brutality, history of civil rights, and racism in America.

“I am an artist quiltmaker, and I like to tell stories,” says Mazloomi. “Most of the work I do deals with issues of race or status of women, and a lot of the work is somewhat controversial, but I hope viewers look at it and learn something and think about things and how things possibly could be.” 

As a mother and grandmother, Mazloomi was rocked when she saw the video of George Floyd being pinned to the ground, and heard him cry out for his mother.

“It just shook me to my core. I cried for days because it was sad and tragic how he passed. But hearing him call for his mother personified the role of women in the sphere of the universe,” she says.

Mazloomi is a believer in the dynamic power of females, and has been involved in the economic development of women through the arts for over 30 years. Throughout her career of making textile art, many of her works showcase the women and their strong role in society. 

“Young women need to know about the power they wield. As women, we are the  first teachers because we give birth. We are the teachers of humanity. It’s a position that influences all of humanity,” she says. “The first word a baby learns is usually mama and it’s so strange that the last thing a human being may talk about when dying is their mother. They call on their mother.”

A self-proclaimed news addict, she listens to news while she works. Her quilts serve as a response to what’s going on in her environment, and the world, and is meant to evoke thought. 

“My inspiration always comes from the environment around me. Currently the environment is very toxic, so I’m creating work about human condition — not just here in the United States, but of refugees around the world because women and children form the greater population of refugees,” she says. 

When asked what she hopes to see evolve from the protests, pandemic and social struggles of now, she answers with the wisdom, patience and hopeful tone of someone who has weathered years of society’s injustice.

“Let’s deal with the pandemic first,” she says. “Because African Americans are disproportionately affected, they are dying more than anyone else,” she says. “Hopefully out of this pandemic, maybe it will help African Americans. They have health issues brought about due to racism because they don’t have access to good housing and healthcare, which plays into susceptibility to the virus.” 

Thirteen people in the Women of Color Quilters Network died due to COVID-19. She and other members of the network collectively made more than 27,000 masks that were given to healthcare workers, nonprofit organizations, funeral homes and other places of need.

“When it comes to protests, I am happy to see protesters aren’t just African Americans, but a diverse group of people around the country,” says Mazloomi. “Anything that can prompt racial equality and justice in America is a good thing. Hopefully something good will come of these demonstrations, and our government and individuals will make efforts to be more civil to one another and see equality for all American citizens.”

Mazloomi was awarded the first Ohio Heritage Fellowship Award in 2003. Ohio Heritage Fellows are among the state’s living cultural treasures.  Fellows embody the highest level of artistic achievement in their work, and the highest level of service in the teaching and other work they do in their communities to ensure that their artistic traditions stay strong. In 2014 Dr. Mazloomi was given the National Endowment for the Arts National Heritage Award, the highest award in the nation for traditional art.  She was also inducted into the Quilters Hall of Fame Museum the same year.

Mazloomi’s quilt Gathering of Spirits has been part of The Mint Museum collection since 1999, and is set to be on view in the Schiff-Bresler Family Fiber Art Gallery at Mint Museum Uptown in February 2021.

 

Carolyn L. Mazloomi (American, 1948–). Gathering of Spirits, 1997, cotton, silk, beads, metallic thread, shells. Museum Purchase: Funds provided by Dennis and Betty Chafin Rash, Lee and Mebane Rash Whitman, and Jim Rash in loving memory of Margaret Rabb Rash. 1999.1. © Carolyn L. Mazloomi 1998

 

6 books for children that teach about Black history, cultural differences and similarities

6 books for children that teach about Black history, cultural differences and similarities

The journey to a more just world grows with children. Books open up a view of the world to children outside their own neighborhood. These six books, and many others, are available at Mint Museum stores, which are open for business.


Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer, Spirit of the Civil Rights Movement

A Caldecott Honor Book written by Carole Boston Weatherford and illustrated by Ekua, Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer tells the story of civil rights hero Fannie Lou Hamer who participated in marches, sit-ins, and voter-education training. She also endured police brutality, time in jail and bullets shot into her home. Malcolm X called her “the country’s No. 1 freedom-fighting woman.” This book celebrates Fannie Lou Hamer’s life and legacy with a message of hope, determination, and strength. (Candlewick, $17.99).

 

Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut

This rhythmic, read-aloud title by Derrick Barnes, illustrated by Gordon C. James, is an unbridled celebration of the self-esteem, confidence, and swagger boys feel when they leave the barber’s chair. Winner of a Coretta Scott King Author Honor, Newberry Honor, and Caldecott Honor, and named a best book of 2017 by NPR Books, Huffington Post, Publishers Weekly, Kirkus Reviews, the Los Angeles Times, the Boston Globe, the Horn Book Magazine, and the News and Observer.. (Agate Bolden, $18.95).

 

Talking Walls: Discover Your World

Written by Mary Burns Knight and illustrated by Anne Sibley O’Brien, is a story about walls the stories they could tell if they could talk, from how some walls kept people out to how they became symbols of dreams, memories and fear. Talking Walls has won honors, including the Boston Globe’s Top 25 Non-Fiction Children’s Books, and winner of a Mom’s Choice Gold Award. (Tilbury House, $9.95).

 

Daddy Played the Blues

Follow Cassie as she travels with her family moves to Chicago from the South, and music, particularly Blues, travel with them throughout their journey. Daddy Played the Blues is a picture book tribute to the African-American odyssey for social and economic justice, and how music was a rich part of the daily lives of Black people. Written and illustrated by Michael Garland. (Tilbury House, $17.95).

 

Little Humans

Written by street photographer and storyteller extraordinaire Brandon Stanton, this 40-page picture book combines some of his favorite children’s photos with a heartwarming ode to little humans everywhere. (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $17.99).

Blue Sky White Stars

Written by Sarvinder Naberhaus and illustrated by New York Times bestselling and Caldecott-honor winning artist Kadir Nelson, Blue Sky White Stars is an ode to our nation’s greatest and most enduring symbol — our flag. Nelson’s artwork brims with iconic American imagery, including majestic landscapes and the beauty and diversity of its people. From an image of the Statue of Liberty to a depiction of civil rights marchers banded together, the art for each spread depicts a sweeping view of America. (Dial Books, $17.99).

‘Art helps kids find a voice. I teach kids to use it to express even if they don’t want to actually say the words out loud yet.’

‘Comics, graphic novels, and literature in general have always been a voice and vehicle’

A longtime teacher and supporter of the Mint Museum, artist Wolly McNair creates stories through his illustrations. McNair’s “Black Hornet” and “of Peace of War” illustrations were featured as part of the 2019 Never Abandon Imagination: : The Fantastical Art of Tony DiTerlizzi exhibition at Mint Museum Randolph. He’s also has been an active instructor with The Mint Museum’s Grier Heights Community Youth Arts Program since 2009.

Wolly McNair is a Charlotte-based illustrator. His illustrations, “Black Hornet” and “of Peace of War,” were part of the Mint Museum Randolph exhibit, “Never Abandon Imagination: The Fantastical Art of Tony DiTerlizzi.”

McNair found a love for drawing as a child, and received ample encouragement from his family. He created a business to include character design, story-boarding, animation, writing and illustrating for local and national companies. He self-publishes through his brand GOrilla Bred Publishing and currently is working on a couple of his own “intellectual properties.”

“One is a sorta of ‘what if’ story called Super Bastard. Every aspect of the name plays into the DNA of the story. It deals with the idea of power meeting endless power. What happens when the voiceless finally gain a voice and can enact real change by any means chosen. No more asking,” McNair says. “Using super heroes allows it to be entertaining while having a message and not become preachy. I think comics, graphic novels, and literature in general has always been a voice and vehicle to that can place people from different walks of life in the shoes of those they least relate to. See the stories and life of others, be it fantasy or reality.”

If that wasn’t enough, he’s also reworking his graphic novel Fairy Tale Knights that he wrote for his daughter after realizing there weren’t many comic books featuring Black characters. He also is working on a follow-up to his single-issue comic King Supreme. “It is more of a traditional comic in aesthetic feel, but nontraditional in some of its subject matter and content.” McNair shares more about his art and how art is a catalyst for change.

 

An illustration from the follow-up to “King Supreme,” one of McNair’s latest projects.

Tell us about the type of art you create.

My work is normally illustration based, but I often work both digital and traditional combining paint, markers, watercolor with digital colors to add texture. On a day-to-day basis, though, I work digital. Professionally I illustrate graphic novels, create worlds for character settings, concepts for characters in film, gaming, and comics.

My more gallery-based work is often larger in scale, and I typically do work that has lots of varied symbolism in it. Some things are literal, while other elements have a reason or meaning for placement. I often do several pieces in a small series with a central, connecting theme. Because I work in a character-driven world, and the world itself is but a stage full of characters, most of my gallery work also has a heavy character-driven base to it. 

Algorithms of B3AR by Wolly McNair

What do you want your art to say to America today, and what conversations do you hope it may spark?

The same as I would have probably wanted 10 years ago, and not just to America, but to the world. That we as a people (Black people or whatever term is considered appropriate) have a varied voice, have a beautiful hidden and forgotten history, and a terrible covered-up and watered-down history, and have influenced culture since there was such a thing. I want people to stop, maybe admire, maybe question, maybe reflect, maybe actually see … then ask questions, listen. Each piece, each series of pieces, all speak to different things, and I rarely completely explain my work cause lots of it is self explanatory, but I also want people to gather their own honest thoughts and start the conversation from there. 

How do race, place, and your environment influence your art?

Race and environment have an influence because both are a part of who and where I am, have been, or plan to be. As the world changes or stays the same, so do the reflections in my art. But the history is always shared as I learn and grow, coming from the background I grew up in, that places a roll in detail, the way I may position elements of a piece, or what I may decide to speak on. Not only I am influenced by these things, I also try to use these elements of who I am and where I am from to influence others in a creative and positive way. 

Are you finding new inspiration for your art during these current events?

Current events are actually the same events, just a different timeline. Many of the things happening have happened so many times before. Some of the “changes” are good to see, but mirror things of the past. I have hope that it will ultimately play out differently, and we are not right back here again. I still create, but I don’t want to create only as a result of another life lost, a continued struggle, racism or classism — I have over 400 years of history to use for that type of influence. I can, and do, create from that space without needing more of it. This doesn’t mean the fight is given up, it just means these events — good and bad — shouldn’t have to keep repeating. I’d rather get inspiration from seeing and knowing my kids won’t have to go through this and can live a happy life. Seeing them smile, not cry, not be afraid, not have to be strong would be so much more inspirational.

What positive perspective changes in society would you like to see evolve from the protests, pandemic and social struggles of now?

I just want to see a power shift. Power to the people. We already have a positive perspective or we wouldn’t keep getting up everyday, but I understand that those in true power have to come to an understanding, or no longer hold those positions, for the change to actually come and stay intact. I have seen people who only viewed life from where they sit come to realizations from my own personal conversations, and that was good to see.

More allies. I just want to see things handled better, artists of color given fair chances to speak and be properly compensated, voices amplified, corruption called out, and the people standing for each other instead of over each other. 

lOckS by Wolly McNair.

How do you believe art can be a positive influence on kids?

Art helps kids find a voice. I teach kids to use it to express even if they don’t want to actually say the words out loud yet. Art helped me to write, and writing helped to add to my art and the stories I wanted to tell. Art allows an escape as well. It opens up the mind, and it teaches discipline for many — patience and perseverance. Most importantly, it allows expression. I simply think it is needed, maybe not for every child, but it can be a lifesaver or game changer for many. Even in simply teaching kids how art can be used daily, and the options that are out there, at an early age can help them figure out the path that works for them, and test options as they grow. 

What are you reading, watching, and listening to these days?

I’m not reading much, other than the autobiography of Malcom X. I am listening to James Baldwin a lot lately, and Fred Hampton speeches, and Malcom debates and speeches. I go back to them from time to time. I have a stack of comic books and graphic novels that I haven’t read for mixed reasons, in part due to things I’m currently working on and not wanting to have any other creative elements that aren’t mine creep in.I listen to a lot of instrumental music, including Future Garage/Wave stuff — Nipsey Hussle, Lil baby. I listen to a wide range of things as I work based on where I want my mind to be. My son also creates his own music, so I listen in on it. My daughter is learning piano, so I listen to her. She’s self-teaching at age 9. They prove to me what is possible. I guess I am creating things that hopefully will aid others in the future more than anything.If I do watch anything, it’s the TV show Goodtimes, documentaries, an anime, or Property Brothers or something about buying or renovating houses. It is a different world for a few minutes per day.

Who are you following on social media right now, and why?

I follow a few people of course, but I honestly just float through looking at random things and seeing what catches my eye. There are tons of dope artists out there doing cool things.

The Mint Museum From Home is Sponsored by Chase.