Video: Potters celebrate their craft at Cape Cod Museum of Art

Nicole Muller

Getting their hands dirty is part of the job. Their medium is clay, a naturally occurring mineral derived from earth that once was mountains.

“Pottery has always been the back of the bus in the art world,” says Ron Dean of Marstons Mills, one of 40 local potters who has contributed work to a juried exhibition at Cape Cod Museum of Art through April 12. “When you look at this exhibit, you see that shouldn’t be the case. We need to educate the public.”

The exhibit reflects the beauty and diversity of both the pottery and its artists. Tiny pieces that fit in one’s hand are encased in plexiglass cubes, while enormous urns and wall-mounted reliefs reflect visions that reach beyond the wheel hand sculpture.

To illustrate the spectrum of possibilities, Dean uses the vast variety of shapes, styles and colors of people’s favorite coffee mugs, an item that’s noticeably absent from the exhibit. “The shapes of mugs’ handles alone are amazingly diverse, and the range of colors and designs is endless,” he says. “It’s the same with every piece you see here. Each is the result of specific choices made from infinite possibilities.”

On exhibit are one-of-a-kind functional, non-functional, sculptural, traditional and non-traditional pieces. Each has passed the strict scrutiny of the juror, English-trained potter Dan Finnegan, founder of Liberty Town Arts Workshop in Fredericksburg, Va. Each reflects the distinct vision and unique approach with which the potter addresses clay.

Some of the show’s participants like Dean, Lois Hirshberg and Sarah Holl supplement their incomes by teaching — Dean at the Creative Arts Center in Chatham, Hirshberg at CCMOA and Truro Center for the Arts and Holl at Guyer Barn in Hyannis. Some, like Gail Turner and sisters Tina, Kim and Mary Holl, own studios where they sell their work — Turner at Mill Stone Pottery and the Holls at Scargo Pottery, both in Dennis.

Others, like Cape Cod Potters Secretary Judy Bartha of Yarmouth Port, are not professionals and do not have personal studios. “I work at the Creative Arts Center in Chatham, and I consider myself a neophyte,” said Bartha, who is thrilled to have three pieces in the exhibit. “I’ve been doing pottery for 39 years for my own pleasure and give it away as gifts to family and friends. I‘ve never been juried before.”

Cape Cod Potters is a diverse group with a common bond: their love of working with clay. The organization’s agenda flows with its artists’ work cycles: dormant in summer when members are busy selling their work for a living; re-energizing in fall with an inspirational workshop; and most active during winter and spring.

“Most important, our organization serves as a support system for those who are addicted to clay and its trials and tribulations,” says Turner, president of Cape Cod Potters.

Michael Giaquinto, curator for CCMOA, spent four days designing the exhibit to highlight and complement each piece to its best advantage. “The exhibit is a collection of the wide range of styles in which Cape clay artists work,” Giaquinto says. “It is rather amazing.”

What: Clay: Works by Cape Cod Potters

Where: Cape Cod Museum of Art, 60 Hope Lane, Dennis

When: thru April 12

Museum Hours: Thursdays, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Fridays and Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Sundays, noon to 5 p.m.

Admission: Adults $8; Members and children under 18, free. All day Thursday by donation.

Nicole Muller can be reached at