← View All Articles

S.C. Arts Awards Spotlight Series: Duncan Rutherfurd

Folk Heritage Award: Advocacy Category

As the day nears for the 2022 South Carolina Arts Awards, The Hub is focusing on this year's recipients: four receiving the South Carolina Governor's Awards for the Arts and three receiving the Jean Laney Harris Folk Heritage Award, which are managed jointly by the South Carolina Arts Commission and McKissick Museum at the University of South Carolina.

The gift of a knife to elementary-aged Duncan Rutherfurd sparked an interest that resulted in tireless dedication to raising public awareness and appreciation of South Carolina’s knifemaking tradition.

Rutherfurd is an encyclopedia of information on knifemakers in the state, though he is not one himself, and today’s knifemakers have him to thank for advocacy efforts that keep the tradition strong. Knifemaking, though specialized, has roots in blacksmithing—an essential trade for the farmers of a state dominated by agriculture. Though blacksmithing is no longer widespread anywhere, knifemaking proliferates in South Carolina because of Rutherfurd’s modernizing influence. In late 1970’s he helped organize and promote a knife show for the Aiken Arms Collectors Association. At the time, such shows were the primary way makers reached large audiences. At one of those early shows, while exhibiting his vast collection of South Carolina knives (which he still does today), he conceived of what became the South Carolina Association of Knifemakers, a network of support and learning as makers and marketers during the pre-internet 1980’s and 1990’s. As internet usage exploded, Rutherfurd used his IT background to mentor SCAK members on using it to market their wares and themselves as makers. SCAK members recognized Rutherfurd’s tremendous contributions to South Carolina’s knifemaking community with an honorary membership. He served as an advisor to McKissick Museum’s curatorial team on the exhibition Carolina Knives: The Roots of a Revival in 2021. Rutherfurd’s collection was core to one of its storylines and provided a bridge between the older generation of knifemakers and a new generation, which recently organized the South Carolina Custom Knifemakers’ Guild. [caption id="attachment_50268" align="aligncenter" width="849"] Duncan Rutherfurd, center, receives the Folk Heritage Award May 18, 2022 from Jane Przybysz of McKissick Museum at UofSC and David Platts of the SCAC. Click image to enlarge. SCAC photo by Margot Lane Strasburger.[/caption]
The South Carolina Arts Awards are coming live to SCETV on Monday, June 13, 2022 at 9 p.m. ET. South Carolina ETV, the state’s public educational broadcasting network, will broadcast the awards ceremony through its 11-station TV network that spans the state. Viewers can access the broadcast via livestream on the homepage of SCETV.org; by using a digital antenna; or through cable, satellite, and streaming live TV providers. Further information about accessing SCETV is available here.

Jason Rapp

S.C. Arts Awards Spotlight Series: Justin Guy

Folk Heritage Award: Artist Category

As the day nears for the 2022 South Carolina Arts Awards, The Hub is focusing on this year's recipients: four receiving the South Carolina Governor's Awards for the Arts and three receiving the Jean Laney Harris Folk Heritage Award, which are managed jointly by the South Carolina Arts Commission and McKissick Museum at the University of South Carolina.

From his roots in the Trenton area of Edgefield County, Justin Guy has achieved acclaim as a potter after working in the craft more than 30 years.

Fascinated by the pottery from a young age, he graduated from the University of South Carolina, earning a Bachelor of Fine Arts with a focus on ceramics. After school he was artist-in-residence at Taiwan’s Tainan National University for the Fine Arts, where he learned Taiwanese and other Asian ceramic processes, specifically as they relate to the tea cultures in Japan, Korea and Taiwan. Additional travels across the U.S. and Europe yielded further revelations a professional ceramicist should know. Guy returned to South Carolina and began a teaching career in higher education institutions, serving multiple times at UofSC Aiken with stops at Columbia College, and Piedmont Technical College in between. Additional artist residencies during his career include the McKissick and South Carolina State museums, the Columbia Museum of Art, and area schools. His works have received honors in multiple instances of the Palmetto Hands Fine Craft Competition and Exhibition and the South Carolina State Fair. Guy is currently the master potter of the Phoenix Factory’s Old Edgefield Pottery, which has produced pottery in South Carolina for more than 200 years. [caption id="attachment_50262" align="aligncenter" width="849"] Justin Guy, center, receives the Folk Heritage Award May 18, 2022 from David Platts of the SCAC and Jane Przybysz of McKissick Museum at UofSC. Click image to enlarge. SCAC photo.[/caption]
The South Carolina Arts Awards are coming live to SCETV on Monday, June 13, 2022 at 9 p.m. ET. South Carolina ETV, the state’s public educational broadcasting network, will broadcast the awards ceremony through its 11-station TV network that spans the state. Viewers can access the broadcast via livestream on the homepage of SCETV.org; by using a digital antenna; or through cable, satellite, and streaming live TV providers. Further information about accessing SCETV is available here.

Jason Rapp

Edgefield County pottery studio seeks new members

Get fired up.


Ridge Clay Arts is a new pottery studio located in Johnston. The studio currently has spaces available for new members who need a studio in which to create pottery. Studio memberships provide a shared space in which to create, a happy pottery community, kilns, glazes, slab rollers, pottery wheels and tools. Our studio also has a gallery that members can sell their wares, as well as an online store. Interested experienced potters can call the studio for more information: 803.334.7060.

Submitted material

Groundhog kilns: firing pottery the traditional way

This Aiken Standard article spotlights the groundhog kiln - a wood-burning furnace used by some potters in Aiken and Edgefield counties that are similar to the ones that were around in the 1800s. (Story and photos by DeDe Biles. View additional photos.) Images: Left - master potter Justin Guy of Old Edgefield Pottery adds wood to the fire in the groundhog kiln owned by the Edgefield County Historical Society. Right - These face jugs and other pieces made by potter Gary Dexter were fired in the groundhog kiln at Gaston Livery Stable.

In an era when high-tech gadgets are all the rage, groundhog kilns remind us of the way things used to be. The wood-burning furnaces used by some potters in Aiken and Edgefield counties today are similar to the ones that were around in the 1800s. “It's the traditional way of making pottery down here in the South,” said Gary Dexter, who built the groundhog kiln at Gaston Livery Stable, a historic barn on Richland Avenue, in 2012. Dexter, who has been a potter for approximately 17 years, focuses on creating old-style, alkaline-glazed stoneware. He fashions pots, face jugs and other pieces from a mixture of two types of clay that he digs himself. Then he fires them in the Livery Stable's groundhog kiln. “It's like a giant chimney that has been laid down on the ground,” Dexter said. “It's about 7 feet wide by 14 feet long. There is a fire box on one end and a short chimney around 5 feet tall on the other.” The kiln is made of refractory bricks that can withstand high temperatures. Dexter placed dirt and rocks along the sides of the kiln to hold it together. “It's kind of partially buried in the ground, and it looks like a groundhog's burrow,” he said. The kiln can hold 150 pieces of pottery. The clay they are made of hardens during the firing process, when the temperature inside the furnace rises to more than 2,000 degrees. Meanwhile, the glazes on the pottery melt and become shiny. “I use pine wood, and the firing usually takes about 30 hours,” Dexter said. “Then it takes about four days for the kiln to cool down.” Gaston Livery Stable is in the process of being restored, and the kiln “will be one of the anchors we are going to have here,” Dexter said. “As the restoration moves forward, we will have living history days when people will be making crafts and other things from back in the time when this barn was built, which was 1893.” Dexter has a pottery studio at Gaston Livery Stable, and his apprentice, Siva Aiken, works there with him. The Edgefield County Historical Society owns a groundhog kiln located near the intersection of U.S. 25 and S.C. 430. It is bigger than Gaston Livery Stable's furnace. “Ours is 22 feet long and about 8 feet wide in the middle,” said Master Potter Justin Guy of Old Edgefield Pottery. “We have 90 cubic feet to fill up, and we can put between 250 and 300 pots inside. But we've found that the kiln fires better if we put in fewer and strategically place the pots.” The kiln has been operating since 2011. “We built it in six to eight weeks,” Guy said. “It's made of High-Fired Super Duty bricks (which have a temperature rating between 3,000 and 3,150 degrees).”