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Nicodemus Center displays historic folk pottery reproductions

MONT ALTO -The Nicodemus Center for Ceramic Studies (NCCS) is exhibiting several John Bell reproductions from its Bell Commemorative and Annual Bell Family reproduction series throughout the 2016 fall term at the Penn State Mont Alto Library, second floor. Members of the community are welcome to view the display Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday, 4 p.m. to 10 p.m.

“The Nicodemus Center was created to preserve and interpret the historic folk potteries of the Cumberland and Shenandoah Valleys,” said NCCS Executive Director Mary Ashe-Mahr in a press release announcing the exhibit. “Displaying the John Bell Commemorative Series and Annual Bell Family reproductions in the library reinforces our commitment of preserving and exhibiting historic folk pottery.”

The NCSS not only preserves the legacy of John Bell and other historic folk potters but also conducts monthly workshops for students at its Mont Alto pottery studio on the University’s campus and offers a variety of workshops at its second studio, The Ceramic Arts Center, in downtown Waynesboro.

The NCSS is named for the late Emma Geiser Nicodemus, who established Renfrew Museum and its historic folk collection of the Bell family pottery as a bequest to the people of Waynesboro. Since its inception, NCCS has mounted 12 major exhibits (featuring the works of 42 historic folk potters) and conducted archaeological excavations of the John Bell and Daniel Baker Pottery Shops. A permanent collection of the historic folk pottery is also located on third floor of the Penn State Mont Alto General Studies Building.

Under the direction of former executive director James Smith, The Bell Commemorative Series was begun in 1997 as a five-piece set commemorating the 100th anniversary of the closing of Bell Pottery in Waynesboro in 1897. Ceramic artist Lynnette King created the first piece, a small jug bank, in a limited edition of 250. She continued the reproduction series in 1998-1999 with five original John Bell pieces in a limited edition of 250 each.

In 2000, the NCCS started its Annual Bell Family reproductions to raise funds with a limited edition of 250 and later lowered that number to 100. Ceramic artists have included King, who did the first four, Jack Handshaw, who contributed numbers five through seven, and James Smith, who completed eight through 15. The reproduction series will resume this year with ceramic artist Mike McIntyre.

Twelve pieces are on display in the Penn State Mont Alto Library, including the following:

  • Small lead and iron glazed jug made by Charles Frederick Bell, John Bell’s fourth son, at Bell Pottery in Waynesboro. The original is dated on the base “Sept. 19, 1884” and signed “C.F. Bell.” John Bell is stamped on the shoulder. Reproduction by Lynnette King (2000)
  • Cobalt, manganese, and possibly tin-glazed earthenware mug attributed to John Bell, possibly in Chambersburg, 1830. Reproduction by Jack Handshaw (2006)
  • Oval-shaped soap dish with an interior strainer and an exterior sponged manganese decoration, created in Bell’s shop between 1850 and 1880―the only known example of this style and form made at the Bell Pottery studio. Reproduction by James Smith (2010)

The NCCS hosts pottery classes and workshops at the Ceramic Arts Center located at 13 South Church Street in Waynesboro, including introductory pottery classes, a children’s class, and “Corks and Clay” workshops specializing in creating hand-built projects. In addition, patrons can purchase guild-member pottery in the center’s retail store. To find out more about the center, go to

For more information about the exhibit, contact Mary Ashe-Mahr at