I had the good fortune to know Centre Hall potter Ron Hand for more than 25 years. My friend and teacher was well known to many in our region and beyond. In late August, the art world lost a fine artist.
From the Tusseyville Pottery studio in Centre Hall, Hand had made ceramics in the traditional Asian manner from hand dug clay since 1978. Now, many pottery enthusiasts are sad that his studio stands silent here in central Pennsylvania.
Hand developed a diverse following of collectors and curators from around the world. He shared his knowledge with fellow artists through lectures, seminars and invitational exhibitions both at home and abroad for decades. He spoke with passion about all things pottery — recipes for glazes, kiln firing methods, brushwork and painting techniques — to fellow master artists, curators, art students, museum patrons and collectors. Hand showed his work in Japan, Taiwan and other parts of the world with regularity.
While he traveled extensively, Hand made central Pennsylvania home with his wife, Judy. He shared with others his lifelong interest in the art form that derived almost magically from clay and fire.
Through his work, Hand mastered very difficult Asian pottery forms, specialty glazes such as shino, tea dust and nuka, as well as painting techniques. He enjoyed the hours of study that go hand in hand with any successful artist’s output. Hand’s ceramic vessels ranged from flower vases, rice bowls and sake cups to quatrefoil serving dishes, faceted vases, handled baskets and impressed leaf platters.
His work was featured in numerous solo and group exhibits including those at the Crocker Art Museum in Sacramento, Lacoste Gallery in Boston, Martin Art Gallery in Allentown and on Penn State’s University Park campus. In 2013, Ron Hand’s chawan (tea bowl) “Beatle” Tsutsu-jawa was accepted into the prestigious permanent art collection of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
While Hand’s art pottery was well known to the international art world and to collectors worldwide, he also worked to teach students at Penn State about art and museum design and he served to make art accessible while it was on display at the Palmer Museum of Art. He employed his talents highlighting other artists’ work as the senior exhibition designer at the Palmer for decades. It was a most important museum job as he bridged the gap between an artist’s message conveyed via his/her work of art and its end user, the museum visitor.
Hand and I met in 1991. I was a graduate student working at the Palmer during the extensive expansion that made it the commonwealth’s major art museum between Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. Back then, Hand was the museum’s head exhibition designer and he taught museum studies seminars on exhibition design and computer-aided design to graduate students with museum directorKahren Arbitman.
Hand’s impact on the Palmer’s physical spaces and how Penn Staters experienced art was evident via his designs for exhibits of the art of Rembrandt, Magdalena Abakanowicz, Seymour Lipton among others. No matter the medium, he always took an interest in featuring other artists’ work best when it was on exhibit at the Palmer. In his dual role as fine artist and museum exhibition designer, he highlighted the work of his fellow artists with grace and fascination. He understood how to make art exhibitions look good to visitors and how to convey the artist’s message to museum patrons of all backgrounds and ages. He also played a key role in the museum’s permanent installations of paintings, sculptures and works on paper at the Palmer.
If you saw an exhibition or visited the Palmer , then you experienced Hand’s design work first hand.
To see some of Ron’s impressive art pottery work, visit www.tusseyvillepottery.com.
Lori Verderame is an author, appraiser and award-winning TV personality who stars on History Channel’s “The Curse of Oak Island” and Discovery’s “Auction Kings.” With a Ph.D. from Penn State University and experience appraising 20,000 antiques every year, Dr. Lori presents antique appraisal events and keynote speeches to worldwide audiences. Visit www.DrLoriV.com/events or call 888-431-1010.