A Great Example of How to Display a Pottery Collection

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For years, I lamented that my collection of handmade mugs was hidden away behind cabinet doors. Until finally I asked my woodworker friend Adrian to make me a cup shelf and he made me a beautiful cup shelf (see photo below).

Finding a way to properly display a pottery collection is a conundrum that many potters find themselves in, because once you get hooked on collecting, you quickly run out of display space for your treasures. And you don’t want to hide handmade pottery away in dark cabinets.

Brian Harper and Tiffany Carbonneau were in this situation and when it was time to remodel their kitchen, they worked many pottery display ideas into their design. In this post, an excerpt from the October 2016 issue of Ceramics Monthly, Brian and Tiffany share how they showcased their collection. – Jennifer Poellot Harnetty, editor.

P.S. Learn more about Brian’s approach to collecting and some of the choices that he makes when acquiring new work by reading the complete article in the October 2016 issue of Ceramics Monthly. We also have an article by wood-fire potter Matt Schiemann about his ceramics collection in the same issue! 


Couple Remodels Kitchen to Better Display Their Handmade Pottery Collection

by Brian Harper

Collecting and using handmade pottery allows for a connection to the maker, providing opportunities to recall memories of the creative people and unique places from which the pots came. The vessels I collect are incorporated into the relationship and home I share with my wife, Tiffany Carbonneau, a digital media artist with a BFA and MFA in ceramics, and are mostly used for their intended functional purposes. Tiffany and I share a keen eye for new vessels and objects to add to our collection and often work together to find diverse and meaningful pieces.


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Detail of the Jennifer Harnetty’s cup shelf.

Collecting and using handmade pottery allows for a connection to the maker, providing opportunities to recall memories of the creative people and unique places from which the pots came. The vessels I collect are incorporated into the relationship and home I share with my wife, Tiffany Carbonneau, a digital media artist with a BFA and MFA in ceramics, and are mostly used for their intended functional purposes. Tiffany and I share a keen eye for new vessels and objects to add to our collection and often work together to find diverse and meaningful pieces.

Showcasing a Collection

Prior to our recent kitchen remodel, most of our pots were stored in kitchen cabinets. Tiffany and I have long talked about wanting to see more of our collection when cooking and spending time in the kitchen. Our main goals for the remodel were to make our pottery collection more visible and enhance the functionality of the space. By exposing a window which was covered by cabinets in the 1970s, installing a subway tile backsplash from the counters to the ten-foot ceiling, and custom building rough-cut cedar plank floating shelves to replace the cabinets, we were able to dramatically change the look and feel of the kitchen, while making it easier to see and use our favorite pots.


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Detail of the plate rack and cup shelf in Harper and Carbonneau’s kitchen.

Located in New Albany, Indiana, our 100-year-old craftsman-style home is listed on the National Registry of Historic Places. Old houses present unique renovation challenges, which is why we were happy to trade website design work for the assistance of carpenter and craftsman, Beau Carbonneau. Beau, who is Tiffany’s brother and proprietor of Carbonneau Custom Carpentry, was crucial to the creative problem solving that arises when working on an old house, and helped guide the project through the challenges of uneven walls, old plaster and lathe, and oddly centered wall studs.

Many of our kitchen remodeling decisions were based on how pots are used in our kitchen. When designing the wall shelves, we first measured the pots in our collection, thinking about how, when, and where those pots are used. The height of the shelf for the plates needed to be large enough to fit our larger dinner plates, yet be designed to hold the smaller plates as well. Some shelves needed to be deeper for large serving bowls, while others could be narrow for mugs, cups, and spices. We knew that the shelves needed to hold a lot of weight, which required some sleuth carpentry work and heavy-duty anchoring.

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