Monday, June 2, 2014

Memorial Day Pottery Reflection

Christopher Haun Goes to the Gallows
This is a bit delayed, but  lately, a lot of things seem to be taking much more time than hoped for! Last week, while working on the farm on Monday, I was reflecting on Memorial Day and the concept of honoring those who have served in the military, given the ultimate sacrifice and not returned. A thought crept into my mind, that crafts people have served in various wars and some have not returned. How did that impact the field of craft that those people worked in? What would their work have been like if they had survived?

Isaac Lefevers Jar, Antique Bottles
Everyone fantasizes about one thing or another from time to time. One of my fantasies is to think about what may have been if particular potters had not been lost to war. The above jar was made by Isaac Lefevers, who was born in 1831 and lived in Vale in Lincoln County, NC. He served in the Civil War and died in 1864 after a battle near White Oak Swamp in Virginia.
Possible Clemer jar, Brunk Auctions

The above jar here was likely made by Jeremiah Clemer who died in 1862 in a Richmond hospital following the battle of Seven Pines, during the Civil War. Clemer was also from Lincoln County in North Carolina. Two early alkaline glaze stoneware potters making beautiful, ovoid jars and utilitarian pieces. I love the early graceful jars from this area of North Carolina. Both potters had strong skills and I cannot imagine what their production would have been like if they returned and continued the work they began.
Swank jar, Johnstown, Pennsylvania, Crocker Farm

James H. Hamilton from Johnstown, Pennsylvania, and James Donley from West Chester, Pennsylvania, were both were lost in the Civil War. I've not been able to find any pieces associated with their work, but the above jar was made in Johnstown, Pennsylvania in 1857 and by a potter who took over the pottery James H. Hamilton established. James H. Hamilton may not have returned to be a potter since it seems that in the late 1850s James H. Hamilton took up the trade of a tinner, rather than a potter. He had married into the Black family of potters, though, and helped establish pottery firms with elaborately decorated pots. If you want a heartbreaking story, pick up Phil Schaltenbrand's Big Ware Turners to see pictures of his wife and the notes about the "greatest love story" that they shared.
Haun Jar, Knoxille News
One potter that haunts me is a Tennessee potter named Christopher Haun. Haun did not serve in the Civil War, but he was a Union sympathizer as some were in Eastern Tennessee, Western North Carolina, and Kentucky (and, well, Western Virginia, which is now West Virginia!). I imagine all of the states had their complications in one way or another. My own family were from Kentucky and fought for the Union, and I know that communities were much more layered and complex especially in the South than what we learn about in our history classes.
Haun jar, Case Antiques
Haun's work is haunting because it's so different, often with great waves of manganese slip beneath glazes, rouletted designs, stamps, wonderful shapes, and gorgeous handles.

Haun jar, Case Antiques
Haun's handles are so attractive, particularly the ones that are often called "lug handles" that swoop along the sides of the pieces (above). Haun was hanged by the Confederacy for burning bridges in Eastern Tennessee in 1861. The image at the top of the blog is a published image from a newspaper showing Haun being taken away from his family to go to the gallows.
Lowe piece, MESDA collection

I work part time at the Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts, and when I walk past the above piece made by John Alexander Lowe, who worked with Haun, see the rouletted words along the top, I think, "What if Haun survived?" Before Haun was hanged, he instructed his wife to allow Lowe to continue the operation of his pottery and finish the work he had there, then sell his tools and discontinue the operation. Haun may not have served during the Civil War, but he was lost to war, and in some respects that stands at a similar level to the reflection we are to have on Memorial Day. 

So, what would the crafts world have been like if we did not loose some of the great representatives their field?

Final thought for the day- Idumea is one of my favorite haunting shape note hymns that never ceases to send shivers down my spine when I hear it. If you ever have a chance to hear a group sing this in person, it's amazing. Seems appropriate for the topic.


Dennis Allen said...

Very nice post Brenda, Love the pictures. My own research shows that East Tn. was heavily Union and had voted against succession. There were many people organized in burning bridges to shut down the railroads. There were
irregulars and home guards (including my great grandfather Calvin Allen) who aided the union from the beginning of the war and were called to active duty when Longstreet marched on Knoxville. "Tinker" Dave Beatty led a large group of union irregulars in the Scott county area.The confederate irregulars were led by Champ Ferguson.There were atrocities on both sides and bad blood persisted for a long time after the war.

Liberty Stoneware said...

Yeah, there's nothing clear cut or bloodless about the Civil War and all of the mixed sympathies and divided communities. I remember learning about communities in Kentucky where there were literally wars among families when the salt or sugar supplies would come in. How old was your great-grandfather? Did you have family serve with the Union?