OUr 2020 Theme: The similarities in our differences

The theme of this year’s conference is inspired by the transition of the event from one organization to another. As organizers, makers, or manufacturers, we all use a variety of skills and techniques to achieve a similar goal… to create the best products we can.

This year’s conference will primarily continue in the same format of past conferences centering around two-days of demonstrating artists in addition to multiple speakers. Three demonstrators will work side-by-side, encouraging questions, and conversing with the audience and each other. Interspersed in the program are speakers that will help to inform on contemporary business practices including marketing, advertising, and manufacturing. Every aspect of the 2020 NC Potters Conference is designed to explore the similarities and differences that we all share in executing our craft.

2020 Presenters

Demonstrating Artists


Bede clarke (MO)

Bede Clarke has been a Professor of Art at MU since 1992.  He received his MFA from The University of Iowa (1990) and a BFA from Eckerd College (1982).  Bede has conducted workshops and lectures around the country and internationally. His work is found in collections in the U.S. and abroad, such as Taipei County Yingke Ceramics Museum, Taiwan,  Ichon World Ceramic Center, South Korea, Bermuda National Gallery, and Martin Museum of Art, Baylor University.

Recent exhibitions include Ulrich Museum, Wichita, KS, at Belger Crane Yard Studios, Kansas City, Mo, Schaller Gallery, St. Joseph, MI, Museum of Contemporary Art, Jacksonville, FL, and Snite Museum of Art, Notre Dame University.



Lisa naples (Pa)

Lisa Naples works and teaches from her barn in Doylestown, PA. She received her MFA from NSCAD in 1988.

In 2014, Ceramic Arts Daily released 4 videos on her work/process. In 2012, she was awarded the Ceramics Prize at the Philadelphia Museum of Art Craft Show. In 2010, she won “Best of Philly” and was featured in the book: Masters Earthenware.

Select exhibitions: Michener Art Museum, Smithsonian and Phila. Museum of Art Craft Shows. Lisa has lectured and given workshops around the US and Australia.

In 2005, she was awarded an NCECA residency in Australia which fundamentally changed her studio life.



Dan finnegan (Va)

Dan Finnegan made his first pot more than 40 years ago. He studied at three different universities before making his way to the Winchcombe Pottery in Gloucestershire, England in the late 1970s. As part of Ray Finch's pottery crew he assisted in the production of wood-fired domestic ware inspired by Michael Cardew.

Dan returned to the U.S. and set up his first studio in Fredericksburg, Virginia in 1980. Since then he has made tens of thousands of useful stoneware pots sold directly from his studio to friends, neighbors, and visitors. For many years he worked in the heart of the historic district and in 2001 Dan founded an art center in a vacant hardware store just blocks away. Today, LibertyTown Arts Workshop is home to fifty artists, a pottery school, and a gallery.

Dan's work is included in numerous collections, museums, and publications in the US and UK. He has authored several articles and writes a popular blog about life as a working potter. Dan has been a teacher for many years, and trained a number of assistants in his own studio. He taught a popular class at the Torpedo Factory in Alexandria, Virginia; and teaches workshops with an emphasis on "Good Pots for Good Food".

In 2012, he co-founded a new show in Washington, DC. Pottery on the Hill brings together 15 of the nation's finest potters to exhibit and sell work in an elegant civil war-era cultural center in the heart of the nation's capital. In 2013, he sold the art center and now works in a studio deep in the woods next to his two chamber wood-fired kiln outside of Fredericksburg, Virginia.




EasT Fork

East Fork makes and sells a full range of beautiful, durable, ceramic dinnerware that celebrates and humanizes the people who make them and the people who use them.

Alex Matisse and Connie Matisse of East fork (NC)

Alex Matisse was raised in a small New England town by a family of artists, anthropologists, and inventors. He attended Guilford College briefly before dropping out to pursue a full-time ceramic apprenticeship with North Carolina potters. In 2009, Alex built a large, wood-burning kiln and started making pots in the tradition of his teachers, deeply rooted in the Southeast’s long-standing ceramic tradition—and so began the earliest iteration of East Fork. Today, as East Fork’s CEO, Alex spends his time nurturing East Fork’s continued growth, raising funds, scaling infrastructure, and ensuring that East Fork is a joyful, thriving place to work. In his spare time, you can find him fishing. 

Connie Matisse is the Chief Creative Officer, Chief Marketing Officer, and Co-Founder of East Fork. Her role touches most corners of the business—from product and color development, art direction, ideation, and implementation of content marketing, social media, and being the public-facing liaison between East Fork and our community at large. She spent a decade in food and beverage—working behind bars, waiting tables, selling wine, milking goats, shearing sheep, and baking Belgian pastry—before joining forces with her now-husband, Alex Matisse (CEO/COO) and their business partner, John Vigeland (CFO), to build a vertically-integrated, mission-driven American manufacturing and direct to consumer retail business. They live and work in Asheville, North Carolina with daughters Vita and Lucia.

Alex and Connie Matisse will both speak separately at the conference on the evolution of the business and marketing direction of the East Fork model.


Thomas Schmidt (NC)

Tom Schmidt received his BA at Loyola University Chicago in 2004, Post-Baccalaureate Certificate at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2006, and MFA at the New York State College of Ceramics at Alfred University in 2009.  Thereafter, he taught for four years at the Alfred/CAFA Ceramic Design for Industry program at the China Central Academy of Fine Arts. In 2012 he and partner Jeffrey Miller co-founded the design team Recycled China, whose work uses industrial waste within China to create architectural tile and sculptural objects. 

His collaborative and solo work has been acquired by numerous collections including The Daum Museum of Contemporary Art in Sedalia, Missouri, The International Museum of Ceramics in Faenza, Italy, and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.  In his current role as Associate Professor of Interdisciplinary 3D Studio at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, he explores the integration of digital fabrication with a range of media.


Ron Philbeck (NC)

Ron Philbeck is a potter specializing in wheel thrown, sodium vapor glazed pottery.  The limited production and one of a kind pots are created at his studio in Shelby, N.C.  Ron believes that pots should be well made, pleasant to look at, and easy to use. His work can be found in collections and kitchens around the world.

Ron makes pots for daily use as well as pots that may serve a more decorative or ritualistic role in the home. He throws with soft clay and tries to impart some energy into the work. He has many influences, but most are from the Leach/Hamada lineage of potters. 

He states, “After almost 20 years of making pots I never tire of coming to the wheel and moving the clay. It takes persistence, love, and hard work to make good pots. But at the same time a really wonderful pot can emerge from the wheel when my mind wonders and I am gazing out the studio window. I’m happy to do this work and to share it with others.”