Brunswick potters collaborate, 2000 years apart

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BRUNSWICK — Bob Metivier is working on a series of ceramic mugs that involves collaborating with another Brunswick potter – one who lived more than 2,000 years ago.

Metivier, who works under the brand Dust of the Earth Pottery, is combining art and history in a series of mugs that borrow their design from a piece of pottery that dates to prehistoric times. The piece was found on the banks of the Androscoggin River by a local archaeologist.

“I wouldn’t consider myself a history buff, but I find this fascinating,” he said last week, calling the project “a collaboration of two potters from the same town, separated by 2,000 years.”

The idea for the mug came last year, when the Bath Garden Club was touring Metivier’s gardens in Topsham.

There, Metivier was approached by Diane Gutscher, the wife of Chris Gutscher, a retired carpenter and amateur archaeologist.

Unlike Metivier, Gutscher considers himself quite the history buff, but no artist. After years of tagging along on professional digs across the state, he has amassed a collection of local artifacts, and was on the lookout for an artist who might be interested in using a shard of prehistoric pottery in his work.

While some might approach a museum with this kind of finding, Gutscher said he liked the idea of allowing “people to have their morning cup of coffee or tea in something that is very much a representation of something that was made two or three thousand years ago.”

Metivier did, too. He got in touch with Gutscher and, soon after, created a homemade stamp by pressing the old shard into fresh clay.

“This way, I could have the actual potter’s work on the pot, not just my replication of it,” he said, referring to the “rocker dentate” pattern of jagged lines that helped Guscher date the pottery to a period between 187 B.C. and 513 A.D.

Using the stamp, Metivier formed a band around a mug of his own design – creating a design that combines his own work with the exact lines of an artist who probably lived miles from his own home on Pleasant Hill Road. Given the fragility of ancient pottery, Metivier said it is unlikely that the ancient shard traveled far from its place of origin.

He has since watched the mugs fly off the shelves at craft fairs, and is now working on a new batch. The mugs will be available at Lisa Marie’s in Bath and Portland, and the Scrimshaw Workshop in Bar Harbor.

Over the phone last week, Gutscher didn’t shy away from the implications of prehistoric artwork in the Brunswick area.

“We tend to pump our chest and think we discovered America,” he said, but art “allows (us) to know that even though (our) parents came over on the Mayflower, or through Ellis Island, (we’re) just the tip of the iceberg.”

But just as easily, Gutscher laughed at the idea that the average coffee drinker would weigh the implications of history while sipping from the mug. He tended to agree with Metivier – it was fascinating idea, so why not?

Callie Ferguson can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100, or at cferguson@theforecaster.net. Follow Callie on Twitter: @calliecferguson.

Bob Metivier recently created a series of ceramic mugs that incorporate designs from a Brunswick-area potter who lived 2,000 years ago. In his right hand, he holds a photograph of the original pottery shards that inspired his modern-day work.

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Reporting on municipal, school, and community news in Brunswick and Harpswell. Bowdoin graduate, Wild Oats sandwich-eater. Callie can be reached at 207-781-3661 ext. 100, or cferguson@theforecaster.net.