Carolyn Duke and her family moved to Sullivan County 23 years ago, trading their Broadway and Houston loft for a studio complex in two barns that provides enough space for all the family to fulfill their creative endeavors. For Carolyn, that passion is pottery.
Duke Pottery is nestled in a mountaintop setting with views deep into the Delaware River valley. The natural beauty of this landscape incorporates itself into Carolyn’s art. Often called one of the best scenic vistas in the Sullivan Co. Catskill Region, this potter shares studio space with husband, photographer
Dana Duke. With only stands of pine trees and two spring-fed ponds for neighbors, the Duke Family has put down their roots in this rural setting to enjoy the time and space necessary to pursue their creativity.
Carolyn has a studio practice that begins every day working in clay, “It’s the first thing I do every morning, I want my pots to have the first energy of the day. Each pot leads to the next pot. They connect through discovery in the clay. When I’m not building with clay, I’m drawing, or walking and watching nature, always watching”.
Carolyn works primarily with pinch pots, looking for the patterns and rhythms in nature for her inspiration. She is attracted to simplicity in form, finding the beauty in a pot captured in a single gesture. Although simple in form, an amazing amount of energy is captured in every piece. No two pots are ever the same. The fun is finding the pot that is just right for you.
Hand building allows Carolyn to explore her individual approach to clay, resulting in original designs inspired by the beauty of the earth. “Something happens when I make a pot. When for just a few moments I can reach down deep into the earth and put my hands on some precious earth energy to share with others, only to discover there is more to know.”
Carolyn fires in a variety of ways including, raku, horsehair, barrel firing, smoking and her high fired stoneware pieces. Her work ranges from individual tea bowls to vases, serving bowls, mugs, dinnerware, platters, sushi plates, trays, and her fine art sculptural vessels. All pottery pieces are one-of-a-kind designs.
“I find my inspiration everywhere, which is what makes this process so much fun. Potters who inspire me, there are so many, but I would have to say Lucie Rie, Shoji Hamada, Maria Martinez, and Lucy M. Lewis. In clay, you learn from everyone. We all share a passion for what we do, we are connected.”
Although Carolyn Duke first studied drawing and fine art painting in NYC at The School of Visual Arts and The Art Students League, it wasn’t until she walked into the clay studios at Greenwich House Pottery that she knew this was where she belonged. Working in clay is the earth connection Carolyn had been searching for.
Potter, Anna Siok was her teacher. “Anna showed me the power of the pinch pot, the magic of hand-building. What happens to clay when you let it have its way, or coax it a little bit with found objects, or something from nature like shells, seed pods, twigs, leaves, or bones, leaving room in the process to allow the beauty in clay to happen.”