The Restorative Power of Craft

An online course presented by The Stickley Museum at Craftsman Farms.
With Instructor, Dr. Jonathan Clancy, Director of Collections and Preservation.

4 Sessions  |  $25/session | Location: Zoom Online Classroom

Saturdays at 1:00 PM EST | November 14 & 21, and December 5 & 12, 2020


It seems fitting that as we end what can be objectively described as a difficult year–with a contentious political season culminating in an election, a worldwide pandemic that has upended our ideas of normalcy, and more prolonged and shared suffering than any period in recent memory–that we focus on the Restorative Power of Craft.  Shared throughout the early 20th century, there was a belief that craft, the very act of making, could serve (As Eloise Roorbach noted in The Craftsman) as a “tonic” for the most fragile among us, bringing the craftsperson renewed health, financial security, and spiritual solace.  Over the course of four weeks, we will explore this powerful idea through a closer look at a number of ceramic enterprises, hoping that we uncover the urgency of restoration and spiritual solace in our own times by examining the ways this was practiced in the past.

Registration is required. Once registered and paid, you will receive an email prior to each session with a link to join.

Do you have a scheduling conflict for the live session? You can still enjoy the program. Register and we’ll send you the recording! All paid attendees will be emailed a private link to the session recording when it is available.

Missed us? You can also register retroactively. If you register for a session that has passed, you’ll recieve access to the recording when it is ready.


Sat., Nov. 14Session 1: Working Their Way Back to Health: Marblehead PotteryRead MoreREGISTER
Sat., Nov. 21Session 2: Within the Shadow of a Great Scourge: Tuberculosis, Van Briggle, and Arequipa PotteryRead MoreREGISTER
Sat., Dec 5Session 3: Making Pots and Useful Citizens: The Saturday Evening GirlsRead MoreREGISTER
Sat., Dec. 12Session 4: Educating the Next Generation of Reformers: Charles Binns and the Alfred University LegacyRead MoreREGISTER


Session 1: Saturday, November 14 at 1:00 PM EST.

Working Their Way Back to Health: Marblehead Pottery


Anxiety is inextricably linked to modernity.  Humanity fretted and suffered as we sought to figure out how to navigate a world in which labor, markers of wealth, and long-held beliefs about our place in the universe seemed to be challenged and upended almost daily.  Founded about 1904 by Dr. Herbert Hall of Boston, the pottery was part of a broader experiment to use the handicrafts therapeutically as a “work cure” to alleviate the nervous ailments of modern life.  Soon professionalized under the leadership of Arthur Baggs, Marblehead became one of the leading producers of Art Pottery in the United States that subtly shifted the equation of “production-as-therapeutic” to emphasize the value of a quiet, restorative aesthetic to consumers seeking to buttress their homes from the disquieting influences of modern life.

Image: Marblehead Pottery, vase, c. 1909. Glazed earthenware, 8 1/2 × 6 7/8 × 6 7/8 in. Image courtesy of the Art Institute of Chicago.

Session 2: Saturday, November 21 at 1:00 PM EST

Within the Shadow of a Great Scourge: Tuberculosis, Van Briggle, and Arequipa Pottery


Prior to the development of an effective vaccine and antibiotics, Tuberculosis was a virtual death sentence. Like every segment of the American population, the Arts and Crafts movement was impacted by the disease, and while the results were predictably dire for those infected, the disease and the movement’s response to it left a complex legacy that included artistic and creative triumphs alongside these tragedies. Indeed, it is hard to imagine the existence of either the Van Briggle or Arequipa potteries separate from the “shadow of a great scourge” as it was described in the Brick and Clay Record in 1915. This session delves into the work of the Van Briggle and Arequipa potteries, both of which were formed as a response to the pandemic.

Image: Van Briggle Pottery, vase, 1903.  Glazed stoneware and bronze, 11 inches.  Image courtesy of Rago Arts and Auction Center.

Session 3: Saturday, December 5 at 1:00 PM EST

Making Pots and Useful Citizens: The Saturday Evening Girls


Founded in 1908 under the patronage of Helen Osborne Storrow and guided by the visions of Edith Guerrier and Edith Brown, the Paul Revere Pottery in Boston sought to provide immigrant girls a means of making a living and acculturating them to the attitudes and history of the United States.  With over 13 million immigrants accounting for more than one-sixth of the American population by 1910, the pottery was a response to the question that vexed many Americans who saw the rise in immigration–roughly 30% between 1900 and 1910–as an issue that threatened American traditions and social stability.  Using craft as a means to provide the immigrant population with wage-earning opportunities while instilling in them the Colonial history of America, the Paul Revere Pottery straddled progressive-era idealism and conservative fears that have defined the American experience in the modern era.

Image: Frances Rocchi (decorator) for Paul Revere Pottery, Bowl, 1909.  Glazed earthernware, 3 1/2 x 12 1/4 inches (d).  Image courtesy of Rago Arts and Auction Center.

Session 4: Saturday, December 12 at 1:00 PM EST

Educating the Next Generation of Reformers: Charles Binns and the Alfred University Legacy


If craft held the promise of reform and recovery for a weary populace, one aspect of its  successful implementation that industry could not address was the training in and promotion of the skills necessary to ensure its own survival.  Enter Charles F. Binns, “the father of American studio ceramics” the man whose skill and dedication as an educator and ceramist professionalized the craft and ensured it thrived.  Binns’ work touched nearly every aspect of Arts and Crafts ceramics too, from Marblehead (with the education of Arthur Baggs) to Grueby (Frederick Walrath, a student, was sent to the pottery to address issues with the glazes), to Robineau, who was among his early students and devotees.  This session explores the role of Binns as teacher, chemist, and influencer on the broader field and positions him as a central figure in American ceramic history.

Image: Walrath Pottery, vase, ca. 1910.  Glazed stoneware, 13 1/2 inches.  Image courtesy of Rago Arts and Auction Center.