A documentary film focusing on the Edgefield, S.C., slave potter known as Dave will be released next week during a free world premiere screening in Aiken.
Discovering Dave – Spirit Captured in Clay traces the story of David Drake, who used his skills as a craftsman to create beautiful pottery during the 1800s.
The film, which took more than two years to complete, was produced by Mark Albertin, of Scrapbook Video Productions, and George Wingard, of the Savannah River Archaeological Research Program.
The inaugural public showing will be held at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 10 at the Etherredge Center at the University of South Carolina Aiken, 471 University Parkway.
Pottery from South Carolina’s “Edgefield District” is well-known for its beauty and durability, and is prized by collectors for its unusual alkaline glaze finish.
Although Drake produced thousands of pots in his lifetime, it wasn’t just the quality and quantity of his clay vessels that made him special. He was also a poet who, despite being born into slavery, learned to read and write – and inscribed insightful verses on some of his jars.
His vessels, often signed and dated, can be seen at the Smithsonian Institution, the Philadelphia Museum, the Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts in North Carolina, Atlanta’s High Museum, Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts and Detroit’s African-American Museum.
Wingard’s fascination with Drake can be traced to a 2006 archaeological dig within Savannah River Site that yielded a large, greenish-glazed shard of stoneware pottery.
On closer examination, it had “Dave” inscribed upon it, and nearby were the pieces of most of the rest of the jar, including a section with its date of manufacture: April 16, 1862.
In addition to chronicling the unusual life of Drake, the documentary will feature the jar found at SRS and explain how it remains in use today as an educational tool to help students understand archaeology and local history and culture.
Albertin has produced numerous historical documentary films, including Displaced – The Unexpected Fallout from the Cold War and War Stories – Augusta Area Veterans Remember World War II.
Wingard is an archaeologist whose role at SRS is to identify and preserve cultural resources within the U.S. Department of Energy site.