The Old Church Pottery Show and Sale began in 1975 as a fundraiser for The Art School at Old Church by long-time friends Karen Karnes and Mikhail Zakin, Art School founder. They wanted to bring together their vibrant community of potters with the local community to offer an opportunity to purchase one-of-a-kind works of art while supporting the newly-established cultural resource. The show has grown to include 30 national and international artists and offers more than 2,000 pots for sale over its three-day span.
For more than forty years, Karen Karnes curated the Old Church Pottery Show. On July 12, 2016, Karen died peacefully in her home in Vermont at the age of 90. Karen was an innovator, progressive thinker, mentor, and a dear, dear friend. Her salt- and wood-fired pots set a new standard for the possibilities of studio pottery, and she will be missed by all she touched.
In 2014, artists Bruce Dehnert and Chris Gustin joined Karen to collaborate on the selection of artists, and through this relationship have forged an aesthetic language that will inform generations of potters to come. Bruce and Chris have continued this tradition with Karen in their hearts to guide them.
Last year's Pottery Show was dedicated to Karen and everything we loved about her—her forthright manner, indelible wit, her devotion to ceramics, her legacy.
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"This show represents the first time in its long history that Karen Karnes isn’t at its helm, shaping its flow. Her steady directive to select “only the best” made its weight known throughout our selection process. Chris, Julia, and I made an effort to follow Karen’s advice and counsel. By doing so, hers and Mikhail’s spirits are made present here.
This show gathers together a group of makers who are now part of an important history in American ceramics. There’s a lineage marked by participating in, volunteering for, and hosting this always magnificent exhibition. I’m hyper aware of the various elements that form a confluence in order to make this show the best of its kind, and not just the longest running.
For the potter, the most important challenge, perhaps, is to find some nook or cranny through which their personal viewpoints on the universe can grab hold and be brought to daylight. Pretty much every person in this world, upon being given a prompt, such as the word “blossom” or “cup,” can conjure a shape in their mind’s eye, and with a pair of scissors and black construction paper, cut-out a silhouette of that shape. Right? But it’s things, like the spending of countless hours in the studio toiling with the curve of a handle, or angle of a foot ring, that make this show’s artists special and help to illuminate each unique voice. In every successful pot, I also pick-up on a sense that its maker was also asking the question, “what’s next?” It’s a driving curiosity that everyone shares in these rooms at Old Church.
Putting these objects to use is, in itself, a new universe that deserves exploring. Their function belongs equally to an aesthetic and conceptual realm where the story of their making and being passed from one person to the next lives on. This show has always been about intimate interactions and their tributaries. It’s a beautiful thing."
Bruce Dehnert Before receiving an MFA in ceramics at Alfred University, Bruce Dehnert studied English as an undergraduate. He continues to cultivate a written life that weaves together his creative outlook with the nitty gritty of ceramic art creation. Bruce celebrates the pottery process from kiln construction to dining room table. His treatment of form and surface before firing often inform how to interact with the piece after it is fired. Bruce has been published in journals including Studio Potter, Ceramics Monthly, and Ceramics: Art and Perception. He recently collaborated on Simon Leach's Pottery Handbook praised as "an amazingly detailed, step-by-step text for all major processes in ceramics." He is currently Director of the ceramics program at Peter's Valley Craft Center.
Chris Gustin In 1975, Chris entered the MFA program at Alfred University, where he studied under storied faculty members Randall, Turner, Cushing, Hepburn, and Higby. During his second year at Alfred, Chris met Karen Karnes and was immediately drawn to her fiery character and the seriousness with which she approached her work and the business around it. Her approach was inspirational to him as he began to make plans for life after school. Shortly after, Chris moved to Guilford, Connecticut and opened his first professional studio. In 1986, Gustin collaborated with Margaret Griggs, George Mason, and Lynn Duryea to form Watershed Center For The Ceramic Arts in an abandoned brick factory in Newcastle, ME. Their vision was to create a place for clay artists to live and work in community that nurtures the evolution of artistic practice. Following his early successes, Chris was invited to join the faculty at The Program In Artisanry at Boston University which later through many transformations, became part of UMass Dartmouth, now one of the top ceramics programs in the nation. In 1999, Chris retired to a full-time studio practice in South Dartmouth where he lives with his wife, artist Nancy Train-Smith.
Julia Galloway Julia Galloway's love of clay began as a high school student when she was inspired by the peaceful atmosphere of her school’s pottery studio. She used her babysitting money to purchase her first potter’s wheel and threw pots in her bedroom. Julia entered the New York State College of Ceramics (NYSCC) at Alfred University, where she earned her BFA, and went on to earn her MFA from the University of Colorado in Boulder. Julia is a utilitarian potter; her work is both functional and beautiful. For Julia, “utilitarian pottery supports and represents our intimate rituals of nourishment and celebration.” She is “interested in pottery that is joyous; objects that weave into our daily lives through use.” Her pottery is made from porcelain clay and combines wheel-thrown and handbuilt elements. Currently, she is a potter and professor at the School of Art at the University of Montana, Missoula. Julia is on the board of the Archie Bray Foundation, Director at Large of NCECA, and on the Curatorial Board of accessCeramics. Julia is guest curator for the 2017 Old Church Pottery Show and Sale.