Years ago, my curiosity about the wide world of ceramics led me to a West African pottery excavation, a traditional Japanese-style apprenticeship, and a few years working and living among rural Central American potters.
The big take-away from such experiences as these was recognizing how intimately so many potters around the world connect to the places they live. But when it came time for me to establish my own pottery, I found I knew nothing about the story of pottery making in my own back yard – nor its connection to my family tree! This realization led me to redware and delftware as a ‘return home,’ to make pottery reflecting the roots of my background and of where I live. I now find myself on a life-long path of learning and exploration.
Making ceramics in styles that have deep historical roots goes beyond being “inspired by history.” This approach reflects a time-honored co-equal relationship of style and individual inspiration. It requires an intimate sensitivity to, and nuanced appreciation of, the complex interplay between resilience and adaptation that defines all traditional ceramic art.
I love this approach to ceramics. I love not just the forms but also the stories, the quirky sense of humor, the enigmatic imagery, the elegance. The more I study ceramic history, the more I love it. I love the places it has taken me, the people it has introduced me to along the way, and how all that has helped me to grow as a potter.
My work ranges from items that have long been part of the stylistic repertoire of redware and delftware, to shapes, styles, and imagery that reflect my own journey within these ever evolving traditions.
Stephen Earp earned a Ceramics BFA from the University of Iowa in 1986, followed by an apprenticeship to Richard Bresnahan at St. John’s Pottery in Minnesota. Earp worked on archeological digs in the Ivory Coast, as ceramic field technician in Nicaragua, and as Master Potter at Old Sturbridge Village in Massachusetts. He established Stephen Earp Redware in Shelburne Falls, MA. in 2004. Earp has been listed in the annual National Directory of Traditional American Crafts since 2007, and in the Massachusetts Cultural Council’s Keepers of Tradition archive since 2010. He was recognized by the MCC’s Traditional Arts Fellowship program in 2016 and 2021. Earp’s writings on ceramics include, among other outlets, the series “This Day in Pottery History,” syndicated for the on-line magazine “This Is Diversity” from 2008 to 2012 and ongoing in blog format, and contributions to “Ceramics in America,” an annual compilation of research and commentary on historical ceramics topics. In 2020, Earp guest curated “American Clay: Modern Potters, Traditional Pots” at the Fuller Craft Museum in Brockton, MA. His work can be found at museums, historical sites, and galleries across the country.