Last year at the Southern Studies Showcase I attended the class, An Overview of Edgefield Pottery, presented by master potter Justin Guy. It was fantastic. Though the talk was more on the processes and techniques unique to Edgefield pottery Justin also talked a little bit about the slave Dave Drake, a master potter. This year George Wingard, the program coordinator for the Savannah River Archeological Research Program, showed us a documentary film about Dave’s life that has already won several awards.
Dave was born about 1801 into slavery and remained a slave until the emancipation. Dave was unusual in that he was able to read and write. His talents as a potter must have been respected by his owners because he was allowed to sign his name on his pots and he was even allowed to write short lines of poetry on them. He had a special talent of being able to turn very large pieces of pottery (30+ gallons) which was not easy to do. There are no known photographs of Dave. In 2010 one of Dave’s pots sold for $41,250 at auction. I wonder what Dave would have thought about that.
If you would like to know more about Dave and see examples of his pots, you can read:
The Ceramic Works of Dave Drake, aka, Dave the Potter or Dave the Slave of Edgefield, South Carolina by Jill Beute Koverman of the University of South Carolina.
Carolina Clay: The Life and Legend of the Slave Potter Dave by Leonard Todd.
Copyright © 2014 Michele Simmons Lewis