Ron Dale

(b. 1949) Potter and Sculptor

Ronald Guy Dale was born on 26 January 1949 in Spruce Pine, North Carolina, and lived there for two and a half years before moving to Asheville with his parents and older brother. After graduation from high school and a turn in the US Navy he studied at the University of North Carolina at Asheville for two years (1973–75) before receiving a bachelor of fine arts degree from Goddard College (1977) and a master of fine arts degree in ceramics from Louisiana State University (1979). He taught at the University of Mississippi from 1980 until 2005, when he became a professor emeritus.

Dale was a favorite professor of numerous students and was named Teacher of the Year in 2002. He also taught ceramics at the Penland School of Crafts in North Carolina in the summers of 1985 and 1995; at Cortona, Italy, in the summer of 1987; and at Blackhills Pottery in Elgin, Scotland, in the fall of 2000. He has lectured and conducted ceramics workshops throughout the South and received numerous awards, including a Southern Arts Federation Emerging Artist Award in 1985 and the Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters Visual Arts Award in 1992. His work is in numerous private and public collections and has been shown in twenty-five solo exhibitions and nearly one hundred group-invitational exhibitions throughout the nation.

Dale works in two modes, one making dinnerware, cups, pitchers, bowls, trays, and vases. Inspired by his teachers, Byron Temple and Cynthia Bringle, and by the work and words of potter Bernard Leach, Dale tries “to combine strong tradition with an awareness of contemporary meaning in developing, simple, straightforward forms. . . . The process is complete only when the pots are used.”

For his other mode Dale uses clay and wood to create multidimensional sculptures. “My sculptural work has evolved out of the traditional vocabulary of the vessel,” he explains. “Combined with architectural and furniture imagery, I am able to explore concepts of altered space and perspective, light and shadow, and the flattening of form while allowing for a more direct expression of ideas—ideas dealing with both social and personal issues.”

Is This My Graceland? (1991–92, 88ʺ × 81ʺ × 12ʺ) pays tongue-in-cheek homage to Mississippi artist George Ohr, known as the Mad Potter of Biloxi, who died in 1918. Dale duplicated twenty-one of Ohr’s kinky and distorted vessels and arranged them on shelves that lean perilously outward, typical of Dale’s work. Among the vessels are some elegant pissoirs and “vagina pots.” Ohr also experimented with photography, and copies of his zany self-portraits hang in a gallery setting reflected in a mirror above the shelves. “It’s a piece that’s closer to me than any other I’ve done,” Dale says, “since it’s really autobiographical.”

Inspired by Italian painter and printmaker Giorgio Morandi, Dale has created sculptures that are still-life compositions of bottles and vessels in wooden frames of various sizes and shapes. The works appear two-dimensional and flat when viewed from the front but are clearly three-dimensional when approached from other angles.

After reading The Good Life, Helen and Scott Nearings’s 1954 book on back-to-the-land self-sufficiency, Dale became determined to combine his living and working conditions. He designed and built the home in rural Lafayette County near Oxford where he and his wife reared their daughter and son. With the opening of Irondale Studio in 1996 on land next to his home, Dale realized his dream.

Further Reading

  • Patti Carr Black, Art in Mississippi, 1720–1980 (1998)
  • Lisa N. Howorth, in Ceramics Monthly (June–July–August 1994)
  • Lisa N. Howorth, The South: A Treasury of Art and Literature (1993)
  • Southern Register (Spring 1993)

Citation Information

The following information is provided for citations.

  • Article Title Ron Dale
  • Coverage b. 1949
  • Author
  • Keywords ron dale
  • Website Name Mississippi Encyclopedia
  • URL
  • Access Date April 7, 2020
  • Publisher Center for Study of Southern Culture
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update April 13, 2018