Act of Devotion

A CAMversation

Madeline Gray—North State Journal
Potter Mark Hewitt presents his work during a conversation at the Contemporary Art Museum in Raleigh on Wednesday

Excellent clays, strong family connections, and an ability to adapt really allowed pottery in North Carolina to survive,” Lindsey Lambert, North Carolina Pottery Center executive director, said. “North Carolina has such a diversity of clay.”North Carolina Pottery Center led a CAMversation at CAM Raleigh on Wednesday night to share the stories of Pittsboro-based potter Mark Hewitt. Hewitt spoke about how his family, traveling and the geology of North Carolina influenced his pottery. During Hewitt’s presentation, he explained he was looking for a place that had “good clay and good wood” to set up shop in the United States.Lambert said this is why pottery has flourished in the state and says his main goal at the N.C. Pottery Center is sharing the stories of why pottery is important to the makers, and CAMversation provides such a stage.”This is why events like this are important, because people do have the opportunity to learn so much more about the potter as a person, and that’s one of the things that is very interesting about pottery,” Lambert said. “Some people may buy it for the aesthetic alone, but so many people are interested in the story behind the pots. And that’s what we, at North Carolina Pottery Center, work to tell. We work to tell those stories behind the pots.”Hewitt shared how his work with clay told these stories saying, “Diamonds, sapphires and emeralds are wonderful and they have the image that you cut it, flatten it, and make it into shapes. Clay also has image, but it’s grander, it’s fluid, it’s flexible, it’s lighter.”Hewitt noted one of the aspects of pottery is the divide between usability and decoration with pottery, which depends on the customer.”I can’t control what people end up doing with my work, Hewitt sad. “I can control the aesthetic at all stages, but once it gets out to the marketplace, it takes on a life of its own. I think it’s a shame to buy a Rolls-Royce and not drive it.”He added pottery allows for improvement with every piece he crafts.”If I’m making 150 mugs in a day, I’m making each one better than the last,” Hewitt said. “It is sort of an act of devotion. It’s a prayer. I’ve got to get this one right. I have to get the next one right.”Warrenton’s Senora Lynch, who is known for American Indian handmade pottery, was also scheduled to speak but was unable to make it. For her, pottery is a way of showing her heritage, which she calls her pottery “Living Traditions.” Originally, her pottery was one color and used texture design. When she began mastering her craft, her pots started to tell the stories of her tribe. Lynch said, “The land, old ways, community — those are what’s important, so I started to develop those designs into my pottery.”Like Hewitt, Lynch touches each pot in a different way. Even if she is designing the same turtle on a tobacco leaf as she did with the pot before, the outcome varies.”I’m a different person every day,” Lynch said. “My fingers may not move the same as they did before.”With every piece she makes, she pours everything into it and hopes a part of her spirit is felt through it.”I always pray over my work,” she said. “I hope it will bring them health and joy. I hope that they feel it — feel that love and respect and joy. I hope they feel that when they take it home.”