Pottery That is Both Beautiful and Useful
Alleghany Meadows hand crafts dishware that never needs to be put away
Cups nest together, their handles forming a gently scalloped edge. Bowls curve into each other to form beautiful organic shapes. Plates and bowls nestle, looking like just-opening flowers. They are utilitarian dishware when needed; they become intriguing tabletop sculptures when not in use.
Alleghany Meadows works at Studio for Arts and Works (SAW) in Carbondale, Colorado. He sits down at his wheel, centers a lump of clay and begins to shape a bowl. “As the weather gets colder, I start thinking about soup,” he says as he describes the bounty of his short-growing- season garden—chili peppers, zucchini, sugar snap peas, a 20-foot-long row of basil and 300 pounds of tomatoes.
His latest body of work—called the Flora Series—was inspired by “The Peasant Wedding” by Dutch painter Pieter Bruegel the Elder (c. 1525-1569). “In the very bottom left corner of that painting, there’s a large bowl full of cups,” says Meadows. “This gives everyone an opportunity to choose exactly the right cup to suit the drink and their mood.” Although each piece in the Flora Series is composed of repetitive elements like cups, plates or bowls, the pieces are never the same. In each one, we can see the hand of the potter. “I love the responsiveness of the clay to the pressure of my hand,” he says.
Meadows grew up in Nevada City, California, a small gold rush town. His mother was a potter and a gardener. From an early age, he knew he wanted to be an artist and very nearly became a painter. A visit to San Francisco’s de Young Museum changed his mind. “The Japanese ceramics just blew my mind,” he recalls. In his junior year (at Pitzer College in Claremont, California), he went to Japan to study with famed 14th-generation potter Takashi Nakazato in Karatsu, on the island of Kyushu. “Every single dish was made by his hand … a different dish for each of the seasons,” says Meadows. Some were only used in spring, the season to enjoy bamboo shoots. Some only during cherry blossom season. Some were only brought out when the persimmons were perfectly ripe.