Bruce Gholson & Samantha Henneke (NC)
Bruce & Samantha's Statement
A tyg is an English communal drinking vessel with multiple handles that allow for ease of use, and for a group to readily pass the vessel to one another. We honored this vessel’s functional design by making it with the traditional triple handles and covered them with slip-trailed dots, finials and sprig attachments.
We immediately approached this project thinking in terms of multiples and thought that for our conceptual tyg party each guest would have their own celebratory tyg. With what we know today about the possible outcome of passing infections, we know that the days of drinking from a communal drinking vessel around the brewhouse table are over. We selected 6 individual tygs that represent the dialog we have had during this project.
Bruce threw the tygs, extruded and pulled the handles, and carefully applied the twisted porcelain rope down the handle’s middle. Samantha then slip dotted the entire handle. We created sprig molds from carved plaster and porcelain clay; we molded doll hands out of silicon rubber, and skulls from fimo clay. We unpacked our gifted 1960s antique plaster molds, and newly purchased molds, of doll hands. We slip-cast, press-molded, and re-assembled these objects for the finials that rest on top of the tyg’s triple handles, and the sprigs that are applied to the sides of the vessels.
The tyg grew in popularity during the 1500s and 1600s along with the rise of the alehouse that spread across the hamlets of Great Britain. Around 1577 there were about 24,000 alehouses in England, a ratio of roughly one alehouse for every 142 inhabitants. By the 1630s there were around 50,000, a ratio of one alehouse for every 95 inhabitants.
Our ceramic model, the English tyg, is dated 1649, which is an auspicious year in English history. That year is considered the beginning of the Interregnum for that period, much like the election of 2016 may have heralded an interregnum of government for the United States. In England of 1649, it was an interruption in their government of monarchy by a republic called the Commonwealth, and currently, in the U.S., there is a strong attempt to replace the democracy of our republic with rule by an oligarchy. Because of the intensity of the politics in our present time, we found ourselves consciously broaching social commentary for the first time in our work with the content of our imagery and decoration.
In researching a little bit of English history during the 1500-1600s, we discovered the last major outbreak of the black plague in London took place during the summer of 1665, when an estimated 100,000 people died, about a quarter of London’s population. We learned about plague doctors and the plague’s vector -- the flea, which spread the Yersinia pestis bacteria. How would a dangerous epidemic impact us now with our current health care instability?
In honor of the human condition and our desire to clink our glasses together and give a “cheers” to one another’s goodwill, health, happiness, and prosperity, we sought out defining the word “cheers” in different languages. This commonality of human cultures and the universal desire to be a part of a social group often leads to communal drinking and celebrating with one another. Some countries translate their drinking salutation as ‘good health to you!’, such as South Africa’s word “Gesondheid”, or France’s “Á Votre Santé!” Maybe because of our tyg’s sprigs and finials, clinking together our tygs would be a delicate proposition and probably best to be avoided or done ever so gently.
Hands became a theme for some of the tygs because of the recent obsessions about hand size in the social-political content of our national media. Differing meanings for hands as symbols and in heraldry led us to one of our favorite songs by Nick Cave written in 1994.
“ You’re one microscopic cog
in his catastrophic plan
Designed and directed by
his red right hand “-Nick Cave
This leads to more research and trying to understand the concepts and confusions of right and left, conservative and liberal, Dexter and sinister.
It begs the question, what does our current government of the conservative right have in common with Dexter besides sociopathic tendencies?
‘One idea leads to another….’ is a phrase that we embraced during this project and it continued to lead us all the way to the end.
When posting an image of one of the tygs that came out of the kiln on Facebook the phrase, “A Hard Rain’s is A-Gonna Fall” came to mind. We were inspired to Google the song by Bob Dylan, read the lyrics and watched his rendition on YouTube, being sung in 1963.
We found this to be apropos to the present day commentary and now has come to a full-blown reality with the 45th President and followers blaming fake news and disseminating their own information of alternative facts.
”Where the pellets of poison are flooding their waters” -Bob Dylan suggests the meaning of this is… “all the lies people are told”.
 Alehouses and Good Fellowship in Early Modern England, by Mark Hailwood, Vol. 21, The Boydell Press, 2014, page 3-4.
Bruce and Samantha's Bio
As Bulldog Pottery, We, Bruce Gholson and Samantha Henneke, work in partnership to operate a full-time studio art pottery and gallery here in Seagrove, North Carolina. The Seagrove pottery community has an ongoing lengthy history of pottery making and selling directly to the public. We pursue an ongoing education in the history of ceramics because we find that it stimulates the development of our technical and aesthetic potential by trying to understand how something was done in the past compared to what is available to us now. As contemporary potters in America, the strongest overt general influence has been that of Asian ceramics, especially the Japanese aesthetic. For the past 20 years, we have focused our book collecting in our library on a broad overview of ceramic history. European ceramics from the late 19th and early 20th century became a strong influence on our work, especially in the area of glaze development. Trying to figure out how a ceramic process was done from a limited information, can lead to valuable and new discoveries if you are open to giving in to the reality of your experimental results, as opposed to the mental chains of one's expectations.
Being interested in and having to exposure to historical collections, such as the Mint Museum’s Delhom collection in Charlotte, North Carolina, has also engendered in us an appreciation for historic English pottery and its development aesthetically and technically. Now with this project of studying and interpreting the tyg from the Chipstone Foundation’s collection, we find a new surge of interest in the development of our work from a Western historic influence.
Tyg Set (Six pieces - Three pictured)
Bruce Gholson and Samantha Henneke, 2017. Seagrove, NC. H. 6½” - 8¼”
Pictured are three pieces of the six-piece set Bruce and Samantha created for THE LAST DROP: INTOXICATING POTTERY: PAST AND PRESENT.
Wrotham, (Kent), England, dated 1649. Slip-decorated earthenware. Courtesy, Chipstone Foundation. 1963.15. H. 5 7/8”
This is the historical piece from which Bruce and Samantha chose to draw inspiration.