The Cole Family: A Dynasty of North Carolina Potters

The Cole Family: A Dynasty of North Carolina Potters

Mint Museum Randolph
May 5, 2022-Ongoing

From crocks, jars, and jugs to pitchers, candleholders, and vases, “turning pots” is one of the oldest and richest craft traditions in North Carolina. For more than 200 years, members of the Cole family have been potting in central North CarolinaRandolph, Moore, Lee, and Montgomery counties. Six generations of Coles, and no fewer than 18 individuals, are represented in The Mint Museum’s permanent collection. More than 60 highlights of their wares are included in the installation The Cole Family: A Dynasty of North Carolina Potters.

One reason for its long-term success is that making pottery has so often been a family tradition in the state. Fathers taught the art of forming, glazing, and firing clay objects to their sons, and in later generations also to daughters, who in turn taught their children, and so on through the decades. These family dynasties not only helped to keep the potting craft alive, but ensured continuity in techniques and craftsmanship, as well as introduced artistic innovations in succeeding generations.

The Cole Family: A Dynasty of North Carolina Potters presents a visual history of “turned pots” and the family that helped turn North Carolina into one of America’s centers for handmade, traditional pottery. 

Diedrick Brackens: ark of bulrushes

Diedrick Brackens

Diedrick Brackens: ark of bulrushes

 Mint Museum Randolph

July 16-December 11, 2022

About the exhibition

ark of bulrushes presents a new series by Los Angeles-based artist Diedrick Brackens including large-scale (8-feet) weavings and premiering the artist’s first woven sculptures. Known for making colorful textiles about African American and queer histories, Brackens has developed a process of combining the tactility of yarn with the ethos of storytelling. For this exhibition, the artworks tell timeless narratives about emancipation and remediation through pattern, body, and the power of craft.

In addition to being one of the most innovative and important artists on the rise in the United States, Brackens work incorporates traditions important to the Southern region —  baskets that relate to Cherokee nation and the Gullah people, quilts that resonate with all cultures, but a particular exploration of quilts in the African-American historical narrative.  Brackens’ deeply colored weavings pull imagery from 19th-century Freedom Quilts — used as a communication tool by enslaved people traveling along the Underground Railroad — and star constellations that have been used to navigate the external world and internal psyche for thousands of years. The central focus of Brackens’ artwork always returns to the Black body represented in form or implied in absence.

Intertwined with the patterns are dynamic human figures mimicking animals associated with constellations. This positioning aligns the body within the cosmic proportions of the universe, inferring empowerment of the individual and of a people.

The sculptural basket boats in this exhibition take different forms that reference the human body in communion with nature. The ark is Brackens’ sculptural prototype of a boat that he hopes to float on the Mississippi River. Made with enough room for a passenger to sit upright or lie down, the body and boat can float and bob down the river as one.

The floating of reed basket boats is significant in legends of deliverance, including the Biblical story of the exodus of the Israelites where an “ark of bulrushes” carried the infant Moses up the Nile River. Taking its name from this story, ark of bulrushes gestures to craft itself as a form of mythology — the passing on of tradition, technique, and narrative. Brackens practices textile craft with unique vision and perspective, spinning new definitions of what it means to live today.

‘Diedrick Brackens: ark of bulrushes’ Opening Celebration

Saturday, July 16 | 11 AM-6 PM
Mint Museum Randolph

1 PM | Moving with the Spirit, a dance and drum performance of African Diaspora Arts.

2 PM – 3 PM | Artist Diedrick Brackens and Lauren R. O’Connell, curator at Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Arts and curator of the ark of bulrushes, discuss the evolution of the exhibition, the agency of contemporary craft, and expansive possibilities of artist-curator collaborations.

The Mint’s iteration of the exhibition also includes three additional components that enhance the core installation of Brackens work, including woven and quilted works from the Mint, drawing heavily from the historic quilt collection and the extensive collection of Native American basketry; an installation of North Carolina weavers and a visitor engagement area with response walls and extensive resources from the Mint’s Library and Archives that elaborate on these important craft traditions and methods.  

Diedrick Brackens: ark of bulrushes

About the artist

Diedrick Brackens, artist headshot
Diedrick Brackens

Diedrick Brackens (born 1989, Mexica, TX; lives and works in Los Angeles, CA) is best known for his weavings that explore narratives about queerness, masculinity, and the Black experience in the United States. His work incorporates elements of West-African weaving, American quilting, and European tapestry-making, as well as histories associated with craft. Bracken’s work has been shown in solo exhibitions at the New Museum, New York, NY; Blanton Museum of Art, Austin, TX; Oakville Galleries, Ontario, Canada; Alabama Contemporary Art Center, Mobile, AL; The University of the South, Sewanee, TN; and Ulrich Museum of Art, Wichita, KS. Select group exhibitions include Plumb Line: Charles White and the Contemporary, California African American Museum, Los Angeles, CA; Ear to the Ground: Earth and Element in Contemporary Art, New Orleans Museum of Art, New Orleans, LA; Made in L.A. 2018, Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, CA; Material Futurity, Macalester College, Saint Paul, MN; and The Possible, UC Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, Berkeley, CA. Brackens received a master of fine arts from the California College of the Arts, San Francisco, and a bachelor of fine arts from University of North Texas, Denton. The artist is a recipient of the United States Artists Fellowship (2021), Marciano Artadia Award (2019), American Craft Council Emerging Artist Award (2019), and The Studio Museum in Harlem’s Wein Prize (2018).

Diedrick Brackens: ark of bulrushes is organized by Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art (SMoCA) and curated by Lauren R. O’Connell. Support provided by The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts and S. Rex and Joan Lewis Foundation.

Learning & Engagement and Community Outreach programming for this exhibition is generously supported by Windgate Foundation. The Mint Museum is supported in part by the Infusion Fund and its generous donors, and the North Carolina Arts Council.

Thank you to our media partners QCity Metro and Queen City Nerve.



Interventions is a new series at the Mint in which contemporary works are placed amongst permanent collection installations to create a critical dialogue between past and present.

Installation is on view now

Charlotte artist and muralist Irisol Gonzalez relocated with her family to the United States from Costa Rica. When they moved, their traditional gatherings and family heirlooms lost their geographical specificity. Gonzalez mines these traditions for the stories contained within the installation Unearthing Jade. Most often, the bedrock she finds there is machismo, the elevation and celebration of masculine strength and pride above all else. Gonzalez’s installation reminds us that art begins as a reflection of its time and engagement with culture, and, over time, becomes an artifact of that moment.

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Where to find it

“Art of the Ancient Americas” gallery on the second floor of Mint Museum Randolph

Lavarse Las Manos,2020, acrylic on linen. On loan from artist.

• Quinceañera #1 & #2, 2021, acrylic on linen.

• A Woman’s Cycle, 2021, acrylic on linen. On loan from the artist.

• A Cycle of Pain, 2021, acrylic on linen. On loan from the artist.

Adorning Value, 2021, Resin. On loan from the artist.

Machismo #9, 2021, acrylic on wood. On loan from the artist.

Machismo #10, 2021, acrylic on wood. On loan from the artist.

Burial axe, jadeite, On loan from the artist

Advertencia Mamás Machistas, 2020, screen print on plastic. On loan from the artist