Charles Fergus Binns

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Charles Fergus Binns (4 October 1857, Worcester — 4 December 1935, Alfred, New York) was an English-born studio potter.[1] Binns was the first director of the New York State School of Clayworking and Ceramics, currently called the New York State College of Ceramics at Alfred University. He began his position in 1900 and retired in 1931.[2] His work included authorship of several books on the history and practice of pottery. Some of his more notable students included Arthur Eugene Baggs,[1] William Victor Bragdon,[2] R. Guy Cowan,[1] Maija Grotell[1] and Elizabeth Overbeck.[2] This has led Binns to be called "the father of American studio ceramics".[3]

Ceramic Technique[edit]

Binns ceramic technique was focused around the vessel as a utilitarian object. His lasting work include vases, urns, and bowls.[4] Binns threw each piece in three forms on a wheel, turning them on a lathe and piecing them together afterwards. One of the attributes Binns taught was known as 'dead ground.' Here the aspects that could not be as precisely controlled at the time, such as firing temperature and glaze calculations, were mitigated by a contol over glaze placement; glaze was to run to a certain point, never encroaching the foot.[5]

As a critic and influential educator in the ceramic field, his praise of utilitarian wares with artistic quality led the Arts and Craft Movement in American studio pottery.[6]


Binns authored several books about ceramics. Among these was The Story of the Potter published by George Newnes in 1901, prior to his position at as director of the New York State School of Clayworking and Ceramics. He was an avid contributor to Keramic Studio, a periodical that began in 1899.[6]


Examples of Binns work can be found in museums around the world, including:

  • Art Institute of Chicago, IL[7]
  • Los Angeles County Museum of Art, CA[8]
  • Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY[9]
  • Museum of Contemporary Craft, Portland, OR
  • Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA[10]
  • Schein Joseph International Museum of Ceramic Art, Alfred, NY[4]


  1. ^ a b c d Ellen Paul Denker. "Binns, Charles Fergus." In Grove Art Online. Oxford Art Online, (accessed February 3, 2012; subscription required).
  2. ^ a b c Evans, Paul (1974). Art Pottery of the United States. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons. p. 8. ISBN 9780684140292. 
  3. ^ Carney, Margaret. (1998) Charles Fergus Binns: The Father of American Studio Ceramics. Hudson Hills Press. ISBN 1-55595-144-9
  4. ^ a b "The Stonewares of Charles Fergus Binns: Father of American Studio Ceramics". Schein-Joseph International Museum of Ceramic Art. New York State College of Ceramics. Retrieved 22 November 2014. 
  5. ^ de Waal, Edmund (2003). 20th Century Ceramics (1st ed.). New York, NY: Thames & Hudson. p. 23. ISBN 0-500-20371-7. 
  6. ^ a b Kaplan, Wendy (1987). "The Art that is Life": The Arts & Crafts Movement in America, 1875-1920. Boston, MA: Museum of Fine Arts. p. 251. ISBN 0-87846-265-1. 
  7. ^ "Bottle Vase - Charles Fergus Binns". About This Artwork- The Collection. Art Institute of Chicago. Retrieved 22 November 2014. 
  8. ^ "Search the Collection- Charles Binns". Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Museum Associates. Retrieved 22 November 2014. 
  9. ^ "Search Results for Charles Binns". The Collection Online. Metropolitan Museum of Art. Retrieved 22 November 2014. 
  10. ^ "Vase - Charles F. Binns". Artwork. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Retrieved 22 November 2014. 

External links[edit]