Stonewares of Charles Fergus Binns: Father of American Studio Ceramics
special exhibition The Stonewares of Charles Fergus Binns: The
Father of American Studio Ceramics will feature approximately
110 stoneware vases, jars, bottles and bowls created by Dr. Binns
while he was at Alfred, pieces dating between 1905 and 1934. Binns
is commonly referred to as the "Father of American studio ceramics."
This title reflects not only his creation of unique, virtuous stoneware
pots in the Arts & Crafts style, but additionally acknowledges
his accomplishment of bringing vital information about ceramic clay
bodies and glaze recipes to the lay person, thereby laying the foundation
of the flourishing studio ceramics movement in the United States that
began in the early 1900's.
April 18 - July 23, 1998
In 1900, New
York Governor Teddy Roosevelt signed a bill establishing the New
York State School of Clay-Working and Ceramics (now the New York
State College of Ceramics at Alfred University). Binns was appointed
as the founding Director at that time and held the position for
more than thirty years until his retirement in 1931. Referred to
on campus as "Daddy" Binns, he is best known for his classic pots
with rich monochrome glazes, but one example of his prolific writing,
a book titled The Potter's Craft, has been reprinted three
times since the first edition in 1910. This exhibition will present
an estimated one-quarter of the lifetime production of Binns's pottery,
and will feature loans from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the
Newark Museum, the Detroit Institute of Arts, the Memorial Art Gallery
of the University of Rochester, as well as more than forty private
loans and the sixty pieces from the permanent collection of the
Museum in Alfred.
was born in England in 1857 where his father was a co-managing director
of the Royal Worcester Porcelain Works. At age 14, Binns was apprenticed
at the "works" and is known to have decorated several dessert plates
two years later. While his primary positions at the Royal Worcester
factory were administrative, he became a recognized scholar and
lecturer concerning world ceramics. He accompanied the Royal Worcester
exhibit to the Chicago World's Fair in 1893, and made the United
States his home a few years later. This exhibition chronicles his
life as a ceramic artist and scientist in the United States beginning
with pieces he designed for Lenox China in about 1899. The exhibit
features 110 unique, wheel-made vases, jars and bowls from his years
at Alfred. His earliest existing stoneware creations, signed and
dated 1905, are included and the ceramics span his entire life,
concluding with a bisqued vase which is signed and dated 1934, but
was unglazed and unfired at the time of his death.
In order to fully appreciate Binns' designation
as the Father of American studio ceramics, related archival information
and memorabilia will accompany the exhibit, including his handwritten
clay and glaze notebooks, published books and articles, pottery
making tools, awards and medals, glass lantern slides he used in
teaching, and historic photographs. Binns was influenced by his
twenty-five years at the Royal Worcester Porcelain Works, his father's
love for ceramics, his own interest in the stonewares of the French
artist-potters, and his admiration for Oriental technical knowledge,
form and glazes. He influenced and indeed probably caused the advancement
of the American studio pottery movement both by the creation of
his own unique glazed stoneware vessels and even more importantly
by his enthusiasm for teaching others about the balance between
art and science, especially in evening and summer school sessions.
His own experimentation and sharing of knowledge concerning clay
sources and glaze formulae and his prolific writings made his information
easily accessible to everyone.
The American studio pottery movement is firmly
established, thanks to people like Binns. This exhibit chronicles
a key part of its history, through the largest display of Binns's
pottery ever shown. The visitor can clearly and easily focus on
Charles Fergus Binns as a maker of classic pots with rich, monochrome
glazes. In these pots the visitor will see a reflection of the past,
present and future of ceramics in the United States.
The exhibition is curated by Dr. Margaret Carney,
founding director of the International Museum of Ceramic Art. She
also serves as chief curator for the Museum. A book titled Charles
Fergus Binns: The Father of American Studio Ceramics, including
a catalogue raisonne, is being published by Hudson Hills Press in
conjunction with the special exhibit, and will be available in April,
1998, at the time of the exhibit opening. To order click here.
A portion of the exhibit will then travel to five other sites in
the United States between September 1998 until the year 2000. See
Binns Traveling Exhibition for details.
The exhibition and publication are in anticipation
of the celebration of the 100th anniversary of the New York State
College of Ceramics. Generous funding was received from the Arthur
and Lea Powell Foundation in support of this special project.