Harding Black: 1912 -2004

Born near Aransas Pass, Texas, Harding Black was known for most of his adult life as “the Dean of Texas Ceramics.”  A tireless researcher, Black lived a monk-like life of study and reflection, largely shunning the spotlight that fell on the work of his friends and contemporaries.

Black was a skilled ceramist, but his true passion lay in glaze research, particularly the elusive glazes of ancient China.  By building on the findings of prominent researchers such as Edgar Littlefield and Charles Fergus Binns, he succeeded in his pursuit of a stable process for recreating the Ming Dynasty-era copper red glaze.  After publishing his findings in the inaugural issue of Ceramics Monthly, in January, 1953, Black continued his research, and went on to make great strides in advancing the science of Eastern glazes such as oilspot, celadon, chun, and crackles, along with lava glazes and Scandinavian satin mattes.

Harding Black created perhaps the largest body of personal glaze research in the United States during the 20th century, and is regarded as a cornerstone of the studio ceramics movement.  In 1995, Black gifted Baylor University with his entire body of glaze research, consisting of firing logs, glaze recipes, and approximately 12,000 ceramic objects.  The selection presented here showcases the stunning breadth of Black’s craft, ranging from an electric-fired blue cup, to a yellow vase whose glaze incorporates uranium, hand-dug by Black out of the Texas soil.   Black’s glazes are still taught today in ceramics programs around the country, including at Baylor University.