- Martha Mythlo
I live in one of Savannah’s historic districts, so when I work in my garden I am always uncovering little bits of old pottery and china. On my last big “dig” I found a shard that I normally would have tossed away. It was missing that charming randomly cropped vignette of flowers and arabesques that usually catches my eye. By contrast, this piece was almost the same color as the sandy earth I worked in. It looked vaguely familiar, and I considered it a moment.
When I made the connection I was excited and pleased. The shard was very much like the pottery on view in the Telfair exhibition, Beyond Utility: Pottery Created by Enslaved Hands (July 30 – December 18, 2011; Jepson Center). This show features stoneware pottery created in the 19th century by enslaved workers in the Edgefield district of South Carolina. Here’s a view of the exhibition installation, and a close up of the shard.
It’s enjoyable to speculate on whether or not I’ve found a shard of Edgefield pottery in my backyard, but that’s not what I want to share. I would have thrown the shard away without ever pondering its possible significance had I not seen the Telfair’s exhibition, or become accustomed to the process of looking intently and discovering connections. This is a habit of mind that educators everywhere take pains to nurture. Children are born with this instinct, and an effective education is largely a matter of keeping wonder and the possibility of discovery alive for them. Fostering a sense of wonder while leaving room for discovery is a big part of what we do here in the museum, and it’s also relevant to life at home and in the classroom. Buried treasure in the back yard? Let’s look! Exploring the creative potential in a pile of recyclables? Go for it. Have you noticed, read, heard, or felt something that inspired you with a sense of new connections and possibilities? Take a moment to consider and you might be surprised by what you discover.
BTW: At 6pm on October 20th, in conjunction with Beyond Utility: Pottery Created by Enslaved Hands, George Calfas, a scholar at the forefront of research on Edgefield stoneware, will give a lecture in the Jepson Center’s Neises Auditorium. You know I’ll be there, pottery shard in hand.