Major Event

Bunting Biennial Ceramics Symposium

COMMUNITIES OF CLAY: Ceramic Enterprises Past and Present

Free and open to the public.

The primary purpose of hosting a ceramics symposium is to educate the public about the importance and relevance of ceramics both historically and today. By exploring universal themes that touch on core aspects of the human experience, the Museum hopes to engage current and future museum visitors by connecting ceramic art to people and their lives.

Throughout the world and across time, there have always existed communities, or extended families, of potters, who have relied on the production of ceramics for their livelihood. For many of these, the creation of ceramic objects is a way of life, a tradition to be preserved and handed down from generation to generation. Yet, within the context of the modern global economy, many of these traditions have become obsolete. In response, some communities have made a successful shift by pivoting to new markets, which has allowed them to maintain traditions or create new ones inspired by the past. From Native American cultures of the Southwest to potters in Africa, the Americas, Asia, Europe and the Middle East, “communities of clay” have become known for their distinctive wares that guard the past while often spurring economic revival.

The symposium will explore themes of ceramic enterprises past and present by considering the subject in a broad array of historical and geographical contexts.

Friday, February 17, 2017


Susan Folwell, ceramic artist, Santa Clara Pueblo, Taos, NM

Reception in conjunction with the 32nd annual Alabama Clay Conference

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Opening Remarks, moderated by Emily Hanna, Ph.D., senior curator of the arts of Africa and the Americas, Birmingham Museum of Art

Ali Istalifi, Crafts Specialist, Project Manager at Jindhag Foundation and Independent Filmmaker
Turquoise Splendour of Istalif: Rebuilding a war-torn Pottery Community in Afghanistan

Coffee break and free time to visit the galleries

Bruce Bernstein, executive director and curator, Ralph T. Coe Foundation for the Arts, Santa Fe, NM
Crafting Survival Through Enterprise: the Pueblo Pottery Revival

Chris Kelly, chair of the art department and associate professor of art, Piedmont College, Demorest, GA
Echizen Pottery

Lunch and free time to visit the galleries

Brenda Hornsby Heindl, ceramics department head, Jeffrey S. Evans & Associates Auction, Crawford, VA
New Frontiers: Backcountry Communities of Clay for Free and Enslaved People of Color

Anne Forschler-Tarrasch, Ph.D., chief curator, The Marguerite Jones Harbert and John M. Harbert III Curator of Decorative Arts, Birmingham Museum of Art
The Staffordshire Pottery Industry: Preservation of a Tradition

Closing remarks and thanks; Free time to visit the galleries



The Birmingham Museum of Art, a comprehensive regional museum, has emerged as a major Southeastern center for ceramic study. Currently, the collection includes more than 16,000 objects of ceramic art from Africa, the Americas, Europe, and Asia, dating from the Jomon period of Neolithic Japan to the present day. The collection reflects the centrality of ceramics to cultures worldwide. It is central to the mission of the Museum to provide the public with a sense of the value and relevance of the artworks it houses.


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