The Legacy of Radical Pottery

East Fork founder Alex Matisse, his mentor Mark Hewitt and acclaimed historian Tristam Hunt discuss Josiah Wedgwood, the company he founded and East Fork.


Who “transformed ceramics from a ‘rude and unformed art’ into a stylish and well-designed, mass-manufactured product”? According to Tristam Hunt, acclaimed historian and director of the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, it was Josiah Wedgwood, who founded Wedgwood in 1759.

Here, Mr. Hunt discusses Wedgwood’s innovations and contributions not just to the realm of pottery, his invention of Jasperware being just one of them, in Stoke-on-Trent, the city in England that became synonymous with ceramics production long before Mark Hewitt, another participant in the conversation, was born there. Hewitt, whose father and grandfather had both served as the director at Spode, a well-known fine china company based in Stoke, chose for himself not a life in industrial but studio pottery. His work is part of the permanent collection in museums throughout the United States and he has exhibited widely as well.



In the early 2000s, Mr. Hewitt met a young potter named Alex Matisse, who apprenticed with him in North Carolina. Later, when Mr. Matisse had set up his own pottery in Marshall, North Carolina, and was producing wheel-thrown studio work with John Vigeland, East Fork’s co-founder, during a visit, Mr. Hewitt encouraged the two to transform East Form into a company that used industrial processes to create its work. He sees connections between Josiah Wedgwood’s experimentation and innovation, not just in production but in business and marketing practices as well, and the work done at East Fork today.

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