I have previously blogged about the Dave Project, which centered around a Dave Drake pot, and about Chipstone’s round video room at the Milwaukee Art Museum. When we were first planning the Dave Project we had envisioned having a reproduction of Dave’s pot made to tour around with us. We asked Steve Ferrell, a talented potter and Dave enthusiast in Edgefield, South Carolina (the town where Dave Drake was from) to complete the ambitious task. Steve had not only seen Dave pots, but owns Dave pot fragments, and uses clay from the same source as Dave did in his work. While speaking with Dan Ollman, the Milwaukee artist and filmmaker who filmed the Dave Project, we decided that a video of Steve making both the Dave pot reproduction and a South Carolina face jug, would be a good addition to our round room videos on the Milwaukee Art Museum Lower Level.
This past spring Theaster Gates created an installation at the Milwaukee Art Museum called To Speculate Darkly: Theaster Gates and Dave the Potter. The installation was centered on a Dave Drake ceramic pot. Dave Drake, also known as Dave the Potter, was an enslaved potter in antebellum South Carolina. He was, and is still, unique in that he not only made 40-gallon pots (any experienced potter can tell you how hard this is to do), but in that he wrote couplets on these pots and signed his name. Dave did this at a time when it was illegal for slaves to be literate.