Posts Tagged ‘Holcombe Family Collection’

Some Pottery News – Not From Seagrove, NC

Wednesday, May 27th, 2009

Just to show that I am not a one pottery subject blogger – here is something about pottery in the Carolinas (South Carolina) that is not about Seagrove, NC. Well, I’m not really sure – there might be some Seagrove pottery in this collection, but I don’t know. Anyway, this exhibit will show that important things in the world of Carolina pottery took and are taking place in South Carolina too. We received this press release today for Carolina Arts publication and I thought that it was a good opportunity to show I can see the big picture, as well as be focused.

The South Carolina State Museum in Columbia, SC, will present the exhibit, Tangible History: South Carolina Stoneware from the Holcombe Family Collection, on view in the fourth-floor Recent Acquisitions Gallery from June 5 through Dec. 31, 2010. Samples of one of the largest and most important collections of South Carolina stoneware in the United States will be on view.

“The name Dr. Fred Holcombe has been very recognizable to South Carolina pottery and decorative arts collectors for decades,” said Curator of Art Paul Matheny. “The family started collecting in the 1960s, but had limited showing its collection until our Difference in Dirt exhibit a few years ago, when it exhibited specific examples of pottery to fill gaps in the exhibit. That was the first time the Holcombes had shown in any exhibition, and since then we’ve been interested in presenting a larger exhibit of the family’s significant collection.”

The exhibit will focus on highlights from the Holcombe family stoneware collection, ranging from exquisite pottery from the old Edgefield district by makers such as Thomas Chandler to the Collin Rhodes factory and the highly-recognized slave potter Dave. It also will include significant pottery from the Upstate including the Owensby, Whelchel and Williams pottery manufactories, among others.

Stoneware is fire-hardened clay, so called because it becomes almost as hard as stone after being heated to about 2,000 degrees. It is highly collectible, especially Edgefield pottery, known for its unique glaze, a tradition which spread across the South in the 18th century. A few artists in South Carolina still produce this traditional art.

The exhibit will include approximately 50 examples from the Holcombes’ collection, plus several pieces from the Museum’s collection.

“The Upstate potteries were usually seasonal. Potters were farmers most of the time, but when the harvest was over, they made pottery in the off season.” These factories were family run, cottage industries. An exception was Edgefield, which had a large number of slaves making pots in the 18th and 19th centuries, said Matheny.

Other artifacts to be seen include churns, storage jars and jugs, pitchers and other utilitarian pottery that has become iconographic for traditional arts in South Carolina. One such piece is a huge, 1850s water cooler with a spout at the bottom. The fact that it’s a thick-walled clay vessel keeps water cool, said Matheny. “The craftsmanship, skill and decoration used to make this piece make this utilitarian object a work of art.”

In addition, a full pottery shop, including a potter’s wheel, will be built into the gallery. This will allow the museum to bring in potters from time to time to demonstrate the potter’s art.

“I want people to recognize this traditional art form that was common in South Carolina and which spread throughout the Southeast,” added the curator. South Carolina was the first state to develop alkaline glaze stoneware, though it originated in Asia.

For further information check our SC Institutional Gallery listings, call the Museum at 803/898-4921 or visit (