I bought a pitcher by the Eugenes a few years ago from Ted Oliver’s gallery in Hendersonville, NC. I had never seen anything quite like it before, although it had a classic southern dark-brown alkaline glaze and a lovely, familiar pitcher form. The handle ended in a curved flourish at the bottom. It featured masterful incised decoration: two turtles, one on either side, both utterly charming. And the mad genius who made this thing then went and covered the whole surface with a geometric turtle-shell motif. I picked it up and it was light. In short, it had everything going for it. This turtle had me mesmerized, especially when I looked at its head.
As Ted wrapped the pitcher for me, he told me it was made by a husband-and-wife team from Cowpens, SC, who happened to be the only African-American potters he knew of who were still working in the Piedmont folk pottery tradition.
Well, the Eugenes are also going WAY beyond any Piedmont folk pottery tradition that I know of. They are doing things with clay that are just beyond anything, ever. I visited them in Cowpens last week to pick up work for my gallery. My photos don’t even do their work justice, but please bear with me and try to use your imagination.
Winton throws pieces on the wheel and does all the surface decoration–detailed paintings with glazes and incised work–while Rosa, a former surgical nurse, comes up with their glaze formulas. Rosa also makes large-scale pots by hand, using coil-forming technique. These pots all have an organic shape to them, many suggesting a female form. This is a coil-formed pot she made to suggest an egg:
Here are some of Winton’s wheel-thrown vessels:
Winton holding a little face cup. He said this was a “drinking buddy” for people who don’t want to drink alone. Ha! He painted the mural on the wall in the background too
And here are more of Rosa’s coil-formed pots, with Winton’s surface decoration:
Winton also does paintings and drawings, and sometimes his drawings are the basis of the surface decoration on the pottery.
And then Rosa sews, so she has created fiber elements for some of the works. My absolute favorite piece in the whole place was this HUGE coil-formed vessel she made and Winton decorated, with a 4-faced doll head on top she sewed and embroidered. The doll head had 4 different hairstyles and every face had facial features made of clay, incised and glazed…it didn’t just make my heart race like a perfect piece of pottery does, it made me go totally apoplectic. Susan Crawley! Please get the High Museum to buy this piece!
And I need to show you all 4 faces:
Did I mention that she added earrings to some of the handmade clay ears they made for the 4 faces she embroidered on the doll head she made for the pot?
I have a bunch more photos, but they are uploading slowly and I need to go to bed…I think these should give you an idea of the greatness of this couple.