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August 31, 2011

Landmark Exhibition Showcases The Most Artistic Earthenware Traditions of the Early North Carolina Backcountry

A new traveling ceramics exhibition exploring the Old World traditions of the early Carolina backcountry opens Sept. 24 in Colonial Williamsburg’s Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum. “Art in Clay: Masterworks of North Carolina Earthenware” is the first exhibit to celebrate the achievements of North Carolina's 18th- and 19th-century potters.

Highly skilled craftsmen of European and British descent brought a variety of Old World traditions with them to America and transformed clay into slipware dishes with designs reminiscent of 17th-century flower paintings, into pots and jars with vibrant abstract motifs, and into a menagerie of sculptural forms depicting owls, foxes, squirrels and other creatures familiar to early settlers.

“'Art in Clay’ is a ground-breaking effort that illustrates the rich artistic legacy of Carolina’s first earthenware craftsmen,” said Suzanne Hood, Colonial Williamsburg’s associate curator of ceramics and glass. “The show includes masterfully decorated slipware, sculptural bottles and refined creamware.”

The exhibition includes more than 140 objects from distinguished public and private collections, many on display for the first time. Among the most masterful are slipware dishes made by Moravian potters at Salem and Bethabara and contemporary Germanic and British craftsmen in the Carolina Piedmont.

“Art in Clay” will be on view at Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum through Aug. 1, 2012. A Colonial Williamsburg admission ticket, Museum ticket or Good Neighbor Card is required for admittance. The Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg are located at 325 E. Francis St. at the intersection of Francis and South Henry Streets in Williamsburg, and are entered through the Public Hospital of 1773. Museum hours are 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily. For museum program information, telephone (757) 220-7724.

“Art in Clay” is sponsored by Old Salem Museums & Gardens, the Chipstone Foundation and the Caxambas Foundation. The 2009 and 2010 volumes of the award-winning journal, Ceramics in America, serve as catalogs of the show. In addition to illustrating hundreds of examples of North Carolina earthenware using the latest advances in digital photography, these journals present new research and insights by leading scholars from multiple disciplines.

The Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg include the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum and the DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum. The Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum is home to the nation’s premier collection of American folk art, with more than 5,000 folk art objects made during the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries. The DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum exhibits the best in British and American decorative arts from 1670–1830.

The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation is the not-for-profit educational and cultural organization that preserves and operates the restored 18th-century Revolutionary capital of Virginia as a town-sized living history museum, telling the inspirational stories of our nation’s founding men and women. Williamsburg is located in Virginia’s Tidewater region, 20 minutes from Newport News, within an hour’s drive of Richmond and Norfolk, and 150 miles south of Washington, D.C., off Interstate 64. For more information about Colonial Williamsburg, call 1-800-HISTORY or visit Colonial Williamsburg’s website at

Old Salem Museums & Gardens in Winston-Salem, N.C., is one of America’s most comprehensive history attractions. Its museums — the Historic Town of Salem and the Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts (MESDA), along with award-winning heirloom gardens — engage visitors in an educational and memorable historical experience about those who lived and worked in the early South. For more information about the museums’ collections and educational programs, please visit

The Chipstone Foundation is dedicated to promoting American decorative arts scholarship. Originating in the private collection of Stanley and Polly Stone of Milwaukee, Chipstone uses its objects and resources to support progressive scholarship, think tanks, museum projects and digital initiatives, much of which can be accessed at and at Since 2001, many of the foundation’s significant holdings have been on view in innovative displays at the Milwaukee Art Museum. Each year, the foundation publishes two scholarly journals: American Furniture and Ceramics in America.

The Caxambas Foundation— established by the late George S. Parker II, former president, CEO and chairman of the board of the Parker Pen Company—is a Milwaukee-based organization dedicated to promoting scholarship in the fields of American history, decorative arts and fine art.

Media Contact:
Jim Bradley
(757) 220-7281