The person that had the strongest and most far-reaching effect on me was M.C. Richards. Albers opened my eyes. M.C. opened my mind and I will be forever grateful to her.
— Carol Singer Kalbfeld (Student 1947-1948)
Question Everything! The Women of Black Mountain College installation, featuring the works of Lorrie Goulet (direct carving in wood), M.C. Richards (ceramic sculptures). Photographed by Michael Oppenheim.
Craft and design were central to Black Mountain College’s art program. In the 1940s, woodworker and sculptor Mary (Molly) Gregory taught courses in furniture making, oversaw construction of buildings, and inspired students like Mim Sihvonen to learn about the properties of wood and make beautiful and useful objects for daily living. Johanna Jalowetz taught bookbinding as well as vocal training, Berta Rudofsky taught leatherwork, and Irene Schaw- insky taught dress design. The college experienced a shift in identity after Josef and Anni Albers left for other prospects in early 1949. Their absence created a space for the construction of a Pot Shop and classes in pottery, which Josef reportedly felt was too malleable as a medium. In 1949, Robert Turner established a pottery studio at Black Mountain College, built by Jack Rice. There, M.C. Richards took instruction in ceramics from Turner, a deep encounter that would forever change her life and those of millions whose minds would be opened through her publication Centering: In Pottery, Poetry and the Person. In 1952, Karen Karnes, along with then husband David Weinrib, took on the Pot Shop and in October of that year, oversaw a ten-day Pottery Seminar with visiting faculty including Bauhaus potter Marguerite Wildenhain and students including artist and poet Cynthia Homire.
Notable artworks and ephemera
Exhibited in the Spring 2020 exhibition Question Everything! The Women of Black Mountain College.
Karen Karnes (Faculty and Resident Ceramics 1952-1954) (b.1925-d.2016) and David Weinrib (b.1924-d.2016), Coil-built Fireplace, ca. 1965. Stoneware and iron grate. Collection of Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center. Gift of Abel Weinrib.
M.C. Richards (Faculty Literature and Drama 1945-1951) (b.1916-d.1999), Untitled Raku Pot, 1979. Raku-fired stoneware. Collection of Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center. Gift of the Estate of Jonathan Williams and Thomas Meyer.
M.C. Richards (Faculty Literature and Drama 1945-1951) (b.1916-d.1999), Snow, n.d. Letterpress on paper. Collection of Julia Connor.
Josef Breitenbach (Faculty Photography Summer 1944), Molly Gregory woodworking class, n.d. Archival pigment print from a digital scan. Western Regional Archives, Black Mountain College Research Project Collection.
Cynthia K. Homire (Student 1950-1953) (b.1931-d.2019) and Jorge Fick (b.1932-d.2004), Giraffe Carafe with Four Cups, n.d. Stoneware with glaze. Collection of Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center. Gift of Judy Perlman.
Molly Gregory (Apprentice Teacher 1940-1941, Faculty in Woodworking 1941-Summer 1947) (b.1914-d.2006) and Alex Reed (d.1965), wooden benches for the Quiet House, ca. 1943. Collection of Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center. Gift of Camp Rockmont.
Photographed by Michael Oppenheim
Mim Sihvonen (Student 1946-1949) (b.1919), Wooden Plates made at Black Mountain College, ca. 1947-1948. Collection of Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center. Gift of the Artist.
Marguerite Wildenhain (Faculty Ceramics October 1952) (b.1896-d.1985), Charger, n.d. Glazed stoneware. Collection of Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center. Gift of Michael Reid.
Black Mountain College: Shaping Craft and Design (BMCM+AC, 2014)
Breaking New Ground: The Studio Potter + Black Mountain College (BMCM+AC, 2007)
The Shape of Imagination: Women of Black Mountain College (BMCM+AC, 2009)
The Journal of Black Mountain College Studies (Volume 6: Progressive Education, Graphic Design + Women on Craft)