Dave the Potter

Artist, Poet, Slave
40p. 978-0-31610-731-0.
K-Gr 4—The life of an astonishingly prolific and skilled potter who lived and died a slave in 19th-century South Carolina is related in simple, powerful sentences that outline the making of a pot. The movements of Dave's hands are described using familiar, solid verbs: pulling, pinching, squeezing, pounding. Rural imagery—a robin's puffed breast, a carnival wheel—remind readers of Dave's surroundings. The pithy lines themselves recall the short poems that Dave inscribed on his pots. Collier's earth-toned watercolor and collage art extends the story, showing the landscape, materials, and architecture of a South Carolina farm. Alert readers will find hidden messages in some of the collages, but what stands out in these pictures are Dave's hands and eyes, and the strength of his body, reflected in the shape and size of his legendary jars and pots. A lengthy author's note fleshes out what is known of the man's life story and reproduces several of his two-line poems. A photograph of some of Dave's surviving works cements the book's link to the present and lists of print and online resources encourage further exploration. An inspiring story, perfectly presented and sure to prompt classroom discussion and projects. Outstanding in every way.—Paula Willey, Baltimore County Public Library, Towson, MD
Slave and accomplished potter Dave (last name unknown) left behind a legacy of artistic work in the form of beautifully sculpted ceramic jars. In lyrical poetry, Hill writes a tribute to the man; Collier's majestic watercolor collages reflect Dave's artistry. The book's pacing is especially well conceived, the illustrations shown in tempo with the text's descriptions of throwing a pot. Websites. Bib.
An inspiring and moving look at how a slave found creative expression. Bryan Collier’s affecting illustrations show a world rife with contrasts. Dave is set against a backdrop of anonymous slaves and their dehumanizing work, drawing attention to the importance of the survival of Dave’s story, art, and poetry. The lyrical writing and striking, textured artwork pair together to skillfully depict the process of throwing, shaping, and glazing a jar; to readers, it will seem almost as if they are watching Dave create his pottery in real time. Extensive back matter, including a collection of Dave’s extant poems, provides history and context.

Be the first reader to comment.

Comment Policy:
  • Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  • Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media.
  • If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.



We are currently offering this content for free. Sign up now to activate your personal profile, where you can save articles for future viewing