Review of Celebrating the Cycle: The Wood-Fired Pottery of Matt Jones
By Terry Zug, Author of Turners & Burners: The Folk Potters of North Carolina
All contemporary potters face a common dilemma. Knowledgeable about many world traditions and free to make just about whatever they want, they must find some grounding, some basis for developing a cohesive, personal vision. Working in the mountains of North Carolina, Matt Jones has focused on the early folk stoneware of the Carolinas, as transmuted through fruitful apprenticeships with Todd Piker (CT) and Mark Hewitt (NC). Matt's pots are all functional - plates and pitchers, teapots and mugs, jars and planters, with bold forms and rich, earthy textures that echo the work of country masters from the Southern past. Decorated with flowing salt and alkaline glazes, and restrained slip-trailed and painted designs (reflecting Chinese and Native American influences), they are a delight to the eye and the hand.
Matt's achievement has been carefully documented by his brother, filmmaker David Jones. Like many pottery films, Celebrating the Cycle is organized around process, but it is more comprehensive and detailed than most. Each phase of the work, from preparing the clay to the opening of the kiln, is fully illustrated and accompanied by clear explanation from Matt. Particularly unusual are the sections on turning huge planters by adding clay coils; loading and stoking the giant wood kiln; and the climactic kiln opening showing Matt's customers happily harvesting his pots.As instructive as it is, Celebrating the Cycle is also the most visually appealing pottery film that I have seen. David's camerawork brings poetry to his brother's skills - the spinning clay on the wheel, a small jar framed by the sunlit window of the shop, the exciting geometries of pots stacked in the kiln.
North Carolinians are very serious about their pottery - some might say obsessive - and I'm sure that many collectors and aficionados will want this film to better understand the creative processes behind their treasures. For aspiring potters, Celebrating the Cycle provides sobering evidence of the extraordinary range of knowledge and skills that they must eventually master. And for those already well established in the craft, there will be something to learn here, as well as a lyrical affirmation of their life's work. Finally, the great beauty and clarity of this film make it a superb introduction to one of the world's oldest and most important professions.
Dr. Charles Zug - University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill