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Writer Fears PTC Will Close Pottery Program in Edgefield
web posted March 13, 2012
Many people ask themselves the esoteric
question, “Who am I? Where did I come from?” We typically come up
with answers based off of our upbringing (where our ancestors came
from, the rules that governed our youth). We possess memories of
these events that shape us into unique individuals.
Another question that begs to be answered is “Who are we? Where did we
come from?” We have a historical knowledge base, typical
information covered in high school social studies, as one way to
answer these questions. Today we live in such diverse communities
that it becomes difficult to answer the intricacies of these questions
because we are made up of so many different groups, a melting pot if
you will. We see an ever-growing expanse and blending of
communities everywhere. While we see much growth all around us,
we also see the decline in other areas such as small town USA.
Many of these small communities experience the reduction of their
population as the youth moves away to attend university and to find
employment. If these communities continue to contract, the
culture that identifies these areas will also diminish.
Small town cultures typically revolve around a history or trade that is
traditional to that specific community. My home lies just
outside a small town in South Carolina called Edgefield. This
community is well known for its pottery. Watching a cable auction
show one night, I was surprised when I heard the auctioneer announce
that he would be selling an Edgefield Face Jug. This particular
piece sold for a very high bid as the auctioneer identified the piece
as a rare find. Part of why this piece is considered so valuable
is that it is rare and that replacement supply would not be
Pottery is not a part of a community’s history that can be studied in a
book. Oh yes, you can read about how Edgefield is known for pottery and
what type and what techniques were used. But pottery is a trade
that must be passed from generation to generation through
apprenticeship thus becoming part of the community’s culture.
Edgefield happens to have a premier pottery program through a local
technical college (Piedmont Technical College www.ptc.edu). The
community and local philanthropists have supported this program.
Seems like a strange place to have such a vast pottery program you
might ponder. However, when you consider that the loss of the
local knowledge of Edgefield pottery would conclude an important aspect
of the culture of this small town and without the culture of the small
town, the town of Edgefield, South Carolina becomes just a small town
with no distinct identity.
This community is fortunate to have a young instructor, Justin Guy
(www.guypottery.com), who has studied for 17 years under vast master
instructors and traveled throughout the world to learn various styles
and techniques. Despite this vast knowledge base, Justin
identifies his roots in the Edgefield community as a strong influence
in his pottery style and overall pottery interest.
Unfortunately, the powers that be have chosen not to renew this young
instructor’s contract for the next semester. As a matter of fact,
the entire program is at risk as there is no identified replacement
instructor hired either according to the administrators of the Pottery
program. Should the school decide to eliminate the pottery
program, Edgefield will be at even greater risk of losing one very
important tie to the cultural identity that forms this small town into
a unique community.
Should the pottery program close, those of us currently studying at PTC
will find other places to learn pottery techniques and practice this
art form but to not study in Edgefield and to not study under someone
who holds this aspect of the Edgefield pottery values at high standard
means that even Edgefield Potters will begin to import outside
influences thus watering down this cultural aspect of the community
until finally there is nothing of the rich history of Edgefield’s
specific culture left.
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