I’m so very excited and thrilled! Today I received a postcard announcing an exhibit by The Texas Collection and the Department of Art at Baylor University – Lifting the Veil: The Ceramic Legacy of Harding Black. This is so amazing and such a great exhibition. I just wish I were in Texas to see this and attend the reception and lecture, “The Life and Art of Harding Black: The Power of One,” presented by Paul McCoy, Baylor Professor and Ceramist.
Paul McCoy has been key to the collection of Harding Black being acquired and housed at Baylor University. Here is a previous blog post on Paul McCoy – such a great guy!
When I wanted to write a blog post on Harding Black, Paul was extremely generous with his time and information and afforded me the great opportunity to see much of the Harding Black collection – such a wonderful experience. I wrote the following blog post about that visit to Baylor in Waco, Texas and am reposting it now as a reminder to all of you that might be able to visit the exhibit of the wonderful work and legacy of Harding Black.
For more information on the exhibit call (254) 710-1268 or email John_Wilson@baylor.edu or Paul_McCoy@baylor.edu
As a lover of high-fire oriental glazes and, especially, copper reds, I found (through searching the web) the Harding Black Collection located at Baylor University, my alma mater! I also learned that Harding Black was a Texan, so I knew I needed to know more about this guy.
After a year or so of trying to get to the USA and have that time coincide with Paul McCoy’s schedule, I finally was able to get to Waco, Texas and see Paul McCoy. Paul McCoy is the guy – the authority, the collector, the one that managed to get the collection (as complete as possible) to the safety of Baylor University. A colossal coup. Check out the blog post about Paul McCoy HERE!
I met Paul McCoy in his office and he immediately started spilling out information about Harding Black. Paul McCoy is the ultimate source of information on Harding Black! The day went by quickly and there was so much information flying around that it was incredible!
Paul’s first introduction to Harding Black was through William Daley, who was doing a workshop at Baylor. He suggested that Paul meet Harding Black and they struck up a great relationship which ultimately led to the gifting of his vast collection of glazes, research and knowledge to Baylor University.
In 1991, Baylor University hosted an exhibition of Harding Black’s work. Here is the brochure from that event:
Harding Black was featured in several Ceramics Monthly articles.
The vision for the Harding Black Collection (according to this website), was:
“HARDING BLACK CERAMIC RESEARCH CENTER, THE VISION: To establish an internationally recognized center for research in the art and science of ceramic glaze technology. The center will be created in recognition of the immense contributions made to twentieth-century American ceramics by master potter Harding Black. His life’s work in glaze research will form the nucleus of the center’s archive and permanent study collection. The primary objective of the Harding Black Ceramic Research Center will be to encourage and facilitate continued research in glaze technology on an international level in the spirit of celebration and exploration with which Harding Black has lived.”
The initial steps in achieving this dream or vision occurred when Baylor University gained the collection due to Paul McCoy’s efforts. The article went on to say that “Several institutions have offered to house and preserve Harding Black’s materials, to organize the many thousands of tests and records and make them available to future researchers. Harding has decided that Baylor University will be the recipient of his research materials and collection… Baylor University is acquiring one of this country’s most extensive bodies of personal research in the field of studio ceramics. We at Baylor see this as a great honor, but, more importantly, as a sign of trust, not to be taken lightly or addressed in a casual manner. In light of Harding Black’s significant contributions to the development of twentieth-century American ceramics, the impeccable standards by which he has lived and worked, and his selfless commitment to furthering human knowledge and experience, we feel that it is both appropriate and necessary that his collection and research materials form the core of a working archive. This facility will pay tribute to a remarkable individual and also actively promote continued research in the area of ceramic glaze technology.”
(excerpted from http://home.comcast.net/~frankgaydos/HardingBlack7.html)
The story of how the collection came to Baylor is a very interesting one and it is very fortuitous that Paul McCoy was on top of it, as in this article about another great pottery collector, Georgeanna Greer, her collection was NOT saved – it was scattered to the winds. A fabulous, irreplaceable collection parcelled out to individuals. Georgeanna Greer, renowned in private life as the authority on Texas and early American stoneware—had amassed a treasury of over 2000 pieces of utilitarian pottery – widely accepted as the finest in the country. The collection was supposed to go to the Witte Museum in San Antonio, Texas, but it instead went to the auction house. In this article, the whole story is told, and it is a sad one.
The current display of the Harding Black Collection is the tip of the iceberg and is located in the Hooper-Schaefer Fine Arts Center. The display changes but gives a good example of some of Harding Black’s work – test glaze bowls, cylinders and finished pieces. The lovely photograph of Harding Black was taken by Paul McCoy. Click on small picture to open a larger version of the photo.
I really wish that someone was there taking a picture of my face when I got to see the room and then Paul opening the first case of Harding Black’s pots. I was in shock, pure ecstasy, to get to see in person such a fabulous treasure!
I really can’t describe the feeling and amazement that I felt. It was like getting to see the secret tombs and treasures of unknown civilisations! But this was not a secret and it was not too long ago that Harding Black was alive and creating these wonderful pieces.
Paul had several (6-7) of the wooden boxes that house Harding Black’s work moved into a room for me to view them. Each box, specially crafted for this purpose, contained the beautiful pieces of Harding Black’s work – each nestled in a little bamboo cloth hammock for ultimate protection.
Each box contained glazed bowls, cylinders, and other pieces by Harding Black – the extent was amazing!
Many of the pieces were obviously test glazes.
The glazes were so beautiful! I loved getting to see them, touch them, drool over them! Click on small picture to open a larger version of the photo.
Some close ups of the glazes were mind-blowing! Click on small picture to open a larger version of the photo.
I really couldn’t believe that there were that many variations of copper red! Click on small picture to open a larger version of the photo.
Harding Black even experimented with glazes that contained uranium!
The extent and variation of the glaze colours, techniques, and applications that Harding Black tried were crazy! He did a bit of everything! Click on small picture to open a larger version of the photo.
Although Harding Black was known as a Glaze Master, he was not well known for his craftsmanship. That wasn’t his thing – but glazing was and he got some of the most amazing results! However, he could throw really well – as this lovely bowl demonstrates.
Harding Black used slip cast cylinders as well to do his glaze tests. In one record, Paul McCoy said that he noted applying the glaze in 16 coats (must be spray revolutions!).
In addition to these boxes, there are many more in storage, along with a plethora of test tiles, glaze recipes, notes, and all sorts of other materials.
Harding Black’s life story is fascinating, but it is not the intent of this blog post to cover all of that. If you are interested in more information about Harding Black, click on the following links:
- His eulogy was written/given by Paul McCoy and it can be read in its entirety here.
- A condensed chronology of the life of Harding Black.
- This website gives a good synopsis of Harding Black’s life: Link
- Another resource on Harding Black is the KLRN website which offers a DVD, entitled: Harding Black: An American Treasure for sale, as well as, lesson plans for art teachers.
- Many articles, most often in Ceramics Monthly, featured Harding Black. A fairly complete listing is here.
Probably one of greatest resources of information about Harding Black is from other potters who knew him. David Hendley in a clayart post stated:
David Hendley on sun 29 aug 99
I visited Harding Black at his shop last year (’97
actually). The door was open and music was playing,
but there was no sign of life. After gingerly and slowly
looking around I found Harding asleep in the big recliner
he has in his work area. Not wanting to startle him, I
went back to the door and loudly called for him. That
did the trick and roused him. He was fretting about
needing to make some pots for a show, but not feeling
up to the task. He was, however, more than happy to
visit for a while.
The days of picking up a $5 mug are long gone. He didn’t
have a single thing for sale – it all goes to his, shall we
say, agent, at another location, who does the selling.
That small bowl that you got for $5 is now $125.
Back 20 or 30 years ago, he would give you a small piece
if you told him you were a potter.
An ironic twist is that his studio sits smack dab in the
middle of a high-rent shopping district in North San
Antonio – just down from the mall. It was out in the
country when he built it.
His nice little chunk of commercial real estate is probably
worth more than he sold his life’s work worth of pots for.
People in Texas DO know about Harding Black. He is
considered the unrivaled pioneer of modern handmade
pottery in Texas.
When he started, there was no frame of reference for
starting a pottery. He had to make everything he needed
and develop all his clays and glazes. He fired at all sorts
of odd temperatures. No one will ever be able to duplicate
his magnificent glaze work.
A real treasure of a man.
Gary Huntoon, a friend and potter now in South Carolina, had this to say about his meetings with Harding Black when I inquired if he had met him:
“Yes I know of Harding Black, actually met him when I first came to Texas (San Antonio) in Apr 1963. I worked for a potter named John Swiss Porter, he was a very good friend of Hardings. I have some of Hardings glaze receipes somewhere in a book, he would give you any glaze he had, but he’s the only one who could get them to work. Paul McCoy was the person who got his work to Baylor. Hardings pots were pretty ugly, but the glazes were amazing. I also worked for Oneal Ford, the architect who was instrumental in the revitalization of the Riverwalk in San Antonio. Look up the name Georganna Greer (sp?) she and Harding went around the San Antonio area and located several old slave pottery locations that were created after the Civil War, there is a book about all of the potteries around SA, don’t know who published it, Paul McCoy should know. As for Harding Black, there were only two things you could talk to him about: glazes and fishing. He was also a good friend of Rudy Staeffel (sp), they taught together at the Witte Museum, they both also made sombrero ashtrays for the mexican resteraunts in SA. A very interesting man.” Gary Huntoon
An eBay listing:
Signed harding black 1976 on bottom. This pitcher stands just over 5″ tall and is in perfect shape.
4d 14h 33m left
Buy It Now
Here is Paul McCoy with a recent acquisition – a terracotta majolica piece!
Here is the backside of this piece with his signature:
Glaze testing is ongoing at Baylor under the direction of Paul McCoy – a huge task! Here are some recent test results:
Continued work on the collection is happening with the employment of an archivist and other activities.
I strongly suggest that if you are in the area, go by and see the collection – it is awesome!
Once again, congrats to Paul McCoy! Without your efforts, the collection could have been lost forever- but it wasn’t!
Thank goodness for all of us!