‘Waco and the Bybees’ explores central Kentucky pottery

An upcoming exhibit and symposium in Paris, Ky., will spotlight Cornelison, Waco and Bybee pottery.

"Waco and the Bybees" will explore four lines of central Kentucky pottery.

"Waco and the Bybees" will explore four lines of central Kentucky pottery.

The Hopewell Museum will host a symposium May 30 about the central Kentucky art pottery of 1900 to 1935, and an exhibit devoted entirely to these pottery lines will run from May 27 to Sept. 27.

“Waco and the Bybees” is funded in part by the Kentucky Humanities Council and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

The Hopewell will spotlight the 1920s and ’30s art pottery of Cornelison pottery, Waco pottery and the Bybee Pottery Company lines of Genuine Bybee and Selden Bybee. This pottery is valued for its design and complex glazes and becoming sought-after nationally, but is still sometimes unrecognized even in central Kentucky.

“We are in the process of visiting the nation’s top collectors of this pottery to select 100-plus pieces based upon their artistic qualities, as well as their ability to document the development of the four lines of pottery,” exhibit curator Larry Hackley said.

Hackley is an internationally known folk art dealer, but also a former Kentucky State University ceramics and design instructor, a potter and collector of Kentucky pottery. Hackley has a degree in sculpture and ceramics.

“Our study and documentation of those pieces will clarify the development of this pottery,” Hackley said. “We will examine the pottery in the context of the arts and crafts and art deco periods, and specifically the Appalachian arts and crafts sociological movement chronicled by Allen H. Eaton’s classic book, Handicrafts of the Southern Highlands.

Exhibit co-curator Margaret Layton said when Bybee Pottery Company was incorporated in Lexington in April 1922, it set the stage for the massive confusion that exists today regarding the four lines of pottery that the Hopewell will examine in “Waco and The Bybees.”

“But without the Bybee Pottery Company, and its international merchandising skills, there may not exist the name recognition that now benefits the Cornelison family’s Bybee Pottery (a totally different company) that was proclaimed a national landmark in 1978 as the oldest functioning pottery shop in the U.S.,” Layton said.

Not only were there three shops that produced four lines of pottery, Hackley said, but there were a wide variety of marks within each line of pottery.

“Not having a clear history and understanding of the marks of the three potteries has made confusing the attribution of styles and how they developed,” Hackley said. “As a result, people have not been generally able to discern the aesthetic differences between the potteries.”

The Hopewell plans to explore the subject, unravel the confusion and enable understanding of the development of this pottery.

“The centerpiece of our efforts will be a day-long symposium featuring numerous roundtable discussions regarding the history, production, technical complexities, artistic characteristics, merchandising and current collecting of the three potteries,” Hopewell Museum Director Nancy Smith said.

Advance registration is required and attendance will be limited to the first 100 people. Cost is $35 per person for Hopewell Museum members, $45 per person for non-members and will include lunch. Registration blanks are available in the calendar section of the Hopewell Museum’s web site. Details are also available by calling the museum at (859) 987-7274 or e-mailing  hopewellmuseum@yahoo.com.

The Hopewell Museum is located at the corner of Eighth and Pleasant streets in Paris. Hours are noon to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday, 2 to 4 p.m. Sunday and by appointment. General admission is $3 per adult and free for students, children and members.


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