Darrin Bark is a young Cherokee potter, primarily self-taught, who is steeped in the aesthetic traditions of his family and community. The son and grandson of basket makers, he comes from a highly artistic family. Bark says that it was his cousin Joel Queen, a celebrated potter, who first “talked me into pottery.” Darrin and another cousin, Preston Bark, worked together when they were developing their respective firing techniques.
Bark’s pottery is characterized by a glossy black sheen, which he achieves by assiduous burnishing, and finely etched geometric and figural ornamentation. He draws his ideas for the etched motifs from a variety of sources. Some patterns are inspired by the work of his grandmother Martha Reed Bark, who was a basket maker and member of the Wolf Clan. Other ideas are gleaned from studying relics of early Cherokee art, patterns seen on ancient potsherds, and from consulting anthropological texts on American Indian aesthetic traditions. Still more ideas are inspired by day-to-day life in the Great Smoky Mountains. Cherokee folktales are represented in Bark’s work too, as in his water spider and Seven Sisters motifs.
In addition to his pottery, Darrin Bark makes pipes and other carvings, and one of his drawings, a winner in the Congressional Arts Competition, was displayed in the White House. He has also won awards for his art at the Cherokee Fall Festival.
Darrin Bark has taught and demonstrated at the Qualla Arts and Crafts Mutual, of which he is a member, and has served as a resource person for scholars researching Cherokee pottery.
Darrin Bark is available to demonstrate and teach aspects of the Cherokee pottery tradition. His work is available for sale at the Qualla Arts and Crafts Mutual gallery, and directly from the artist at the various events where he shows his work, such as the Qualla Arts Open Air Indian Market in August and October.
The video contains and Interview by Tonya Carroll with Photography by Ashley Evans and Katherine Bartel, Videography and Editing by Katherine Bartel. This is a production of Mountain Heritage Center.
Dr. Scott Philyaw, Director
Western Carolina University
Cullowhee, North Carolina
In Cooperation with Qualla Arts and Crafts, Cherokee, North Carolina.
Music: “The Booger Dance/ Six Nations” Walker Calhoun and Recorded by Mountain Heritage Center.
Support for this project provided by Blue Ridge National Heritage Area
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