From the Ground Up: Ceramics in Context
Colonial Williamsburg is pleased to host the 2024 bi-annual Ceramics conference, in collaboration with MESDA (Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts), From the Ground Up: Ceramics in Context, March 22 and 23, 2024. Research, scholarship and collaboration among curators, scholars, archaeologists, potters and collectors is an ever-expanding and always rewarding endeavor. From hands-on workshops, to pottery demonstrations, to lectures by leaders in the field, there is something for every ceramic enthusiast in this exciting program which will culminate in a special punch gathering at a historic tavern.
Ceramics play an integral role in our lives. From the most intimate objects like our bathroom fixtures, to our favorite coffee and tea mugs, to parts of cell phones, and even the brakes on our cars, we encounter ceramics daily. This conference is an opportunity to explore the history of this fascinating material and its multiple global and regional layers.
Colonial Williamsburg and MESDA are uniquely positioned to carry out this conference collaboration, each venue playing to the strengths of its respective collection. For this year, the speaker roster reflects a number of topics that draw from archaeological and genealogical research and bring to light the connections made every day between fragments recovered below ground and the people who used them above ground. Those connections are further illuminated and brought to life by the intact objects found in Colonial Williamsburg’s renowned ceramics collection and other public and private collections.
The conference brings together many voices and explores new findings through recent discoveries in the worlds of pottery and porcelain. Keynote Ranjith Jayasena, senior archaeologist for the city of Amsterdam, sets the stage for our global overview of ceramics, encouraging all to see the social, political and economic connections made across oceans throughout the centuries of ceramics production. Among the many other speakers, Ronald Fuchs II, co-editor of the award-winning journal Ceramics in America, Bly Straub, curator at the Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation, and Merry Outlaw, senior curator of the archaeological collections at Historic Jamestowne, all share new discoveries in Chinese porcelain from 17th century Jamestown to 19th century Washington, D.C. Melissa and Matthew Dunphy delve into their tantalizing research and discoveries literally right under their feet as they provide a glimpse of ceramics consumption in 18th-century Philadelphia. Collector and scholar James Boswell discusses his collection of intact objects that parallel archaeological finds in 18th century Virginia. Brandt Zipp expounds on the important history of free Black potter Thomas Commeraw and his New York pottery, while author and researcher Lorraine German unravels the mysteries of important New England stoneware. And Juliana Falk provides a glimpse of ceramics from a Charleston, South Carolina, context. Renowned potter Michelle Erickson will put her own unique spin on the weekend from the potter’s wheel for a live video-assisted demonstration.
A special pre-conference highlight are optional hands-on workshops with Ceramics in America editor Rob Hunter, and with Colonial Williamsburg’s associate curator of ceramics and glass Angelika Kuettner, archaeological materials conservator Kate McEnroe, and senior curator of archaeological collections Sean Devlin. Celebrated ceramics scholar Rob Hunter will share his life-long passion for shell-edged wares, the topic of an important forthcoming publication he is coauthoring. Angelika provides participants with the chance to see and handle Colonial Williamsburg’s growing collection of refined ceramics—pottery and porcelain—made in America. From rare Philadelphia-manufactured Bonnin and Morris porcelain treasures and David Seixas’ green and black glazed earthenware marvels, to teawares made by Massachusetts potter Thomas Crafts, to Virginia-made treasures inscribed by George Kline, the workshop is an opportunity to see and handle familiar favorites and recent additions to Williamsburg’s important ceramics collection. Kate delves into an analysis of British-made wares copying French Bleu Persan inviting attendees to examine a fascinating discovery of a remarkable flower urn. And Sean shares the famous Martin’s Hundred archaeological collection, one of Colonial Williamsburg’s most important assemblages recovered from the 17th century.
The closing punch-themed gathering allows Colonial Williamsburg to share with attendees the Foundation’s famous hospitality in a period tavern setting in the heart of the historic town. What better way to end a ceramic event than with a toast from a ceramic punch bowl?!
A limited number of scholarships are made available through the generous contributions from our attendees and sponsors. Information about the scholarships as well as general registration and accommodation information may be found on the Foundation’s website. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to attend. Register today!