Dynamic Ceramics

The Mint Museum’s Delhom Service League celebrates 40 years of bringing international attention to the museum’s impressive ceramics collection.

Footed Bowl. Gift of the Delhom Service League in memory of Hugh Tait. Courtesy of the Mint Museum.

Footed Bowl. Gift of the Delhom Service League in memory of Hugh Tait. Courtesy of the Mint Museum.

The late artist Mellanay Delhom must have been smiling from up above earlier this year when the Mint Museum opened the stellar exhibition, “Portals to the Past: British Ceramics 1675-1825.”

Many of the objects on display were works Delhom assembled in her private collection which was acquired by the Mint in 1965. Several other prominent pieces featured in the exhibition were funded through the support of the Delhom Service League (DSL), the ceramic affiliate of the Mint that Delhom founded in 1975. The mission of the DSL is to create and nurture interest in ceramics.

Currently on display, “Portals to the Past” showcases the re-installation of one of the country’s most comprehensive collections of 18th-century British ceramics and represents one of the many significant contributions the DSL has made to the Mint and the entire Charlotte community over its 40-year history.

“Ms. Delhom was introduced to the Mint Museum through another prominent collector and patron, Daisy Wade Bridges,” says Brian Gallagher, curator of decorative arts for the Mint. “After the museum acquired the Delhom collection (which has more than 3,500 objects) Ms. Delhom stayed on in Charlotte for many years as the consulting curator for the collection until her death in 2003. The DSL she created serve as advocates, enthusiasts and significant financial supporters for the decorative arts at the Mint.”

Though no formal anniversary celebration for the DSL is planned, this past year has seen some significant milestones for the organization.

“I can’t sing praises loudly enough for the Delhom Service League,” says Gallagher. “They’ve made possible some very significant projects at the Mint, specifically the British Ceramics Catalog, published by D Giles Ltd., a top publisher of fine-art books. DSL fully funded this publication including research and study time, photography, and conservation for the catalog. The publication of the catalog and the opening of the exhibition coincided with the league’s 40th anniversary and the 50th anniversary of the acquisition of the Delhom collection.”

In addition to hosting regularly scheduled workshops, seminars and expert talks open to the public, DSL is well known for its annual Potters Market Invitational, a regional showcase of some of the best and most distinctive potters throughout North Carolina. The gathering, celebrating its 12th year, features varied styles and techniques from across the state. Visitors find displays of traditional ash and salt-glazed pottery as well as more contemporary works with Asian influences and styles.

For Samantha Henneke and Bruce Gholson, the husband-and-wife pottery team of Bulldog Pottery in Seagrove, N.C. membership in the DSL and participation in Potters Market Invitational is both enlightening and beneficial.

“We’ve been showing at Potters Market Invitational since it began,” says Henneke who describes the collaborative work with her husband as decorative and functional contemporary pottery. “It is an honor to participate and something we take very seriously as it is widely attended and has such a strong reputation.”

Potters Market Invitational helps underscore the significant role North Carolina potters hold on the international stage. “North Carolina is unusual if not unique in America today in that it is a state that continues to have an extremely active, thriving, successful pottery community,” says Gallagher. “North Carolina has maintained this tradition with many potters in our state enjoying international recognition. North Carolina potters have their work on display in hotel chains in Japan, museum collections in Europe, and in important private collections throughout the world.”

Henneke loves the continual learning aspect of the DSL. “Membership is a joy,” she says. “They perform a great service in sharing historical and scholarly knowledge of ceramics. It’s absolutely wonderful to have a museum authority help highlight pottery as a true art form.”

The Potters Market Invitational will be held on Saturday, Sept. 10. For more information, visit www.mintmuseum.org.

Photos courtesy of Daniel Coston.