Photo, ceramic exhibit to celebrate life in Sherman

The Sherman Library will open an exhibit of photographs and ceramics depicting how people lived in Sherman from 1850-1890s with a reception July 19 from 6:30 to 8 p.m.

The reception, hosted by Sherman Historical Society, will include stories behind the images and the ceramics around 7:15 p.m.

The exhibit will run through Aug. 28 at the Sherman Center library.

Gloria Thorne curated the display from the photographic collection of the historical society, while Paul Fortenberry created jugs, urns, pitchers, and water pots like those used in the day.

In addition, Thorne and Fortenberry will give a special presentation about the exhibit July 24 at 12:45 p.m.

The photographs taken by itinerant photographers show how the people of Sherman farmed, where they bought their goods, where they lived and who they were: a staunch and proud community here in the lower Berkshire foothills.

The photographers of the day had a keen eye, a sense of dignity and strong wills, for this was not an easy occupation.

Their cameras were designed with many parts and they traveled with dangerous chemicals and heavy plates of glass.

All of this was all carried in a buggy that also held a tent, from which they worked along a dirt farm road.

The original photographs were done with glass plates from these photographers.

Using copies, Visual Impact in Danbury printed the photographs for the show.

The ceramics on display will include jugs, urns, pitchers, water pots and more.

Several pieces in the show are made with clay sourced from the White Silo Farm in Sherman, which was used long ago to make the foundation bricks of the pioneer homes in Sherman.

The pottery is inspired by birds, owls, squirrels and other animals that live around Fortenberry’s woodland home.

Combining farming with pottery, he uses fallen branches for fuel for his wood kiln and uses ashes from his wood stove to make glazes.

By using these natural resources, his work is similar to that of the early craftsman.

The early farmer needed to preserve food over the winter, so before there were tin cans, glass jars, and refrigeration, he made preserving vessels: pitchers, churns and jugs.

With the decline of the family farm, locally made pottery died out.

Thorne began with the Sherman Historical Society in 1979 when Mary Mallory Hadlow began the process of deeding the old Northrop property to the organization.

In 1981, Thorne became program chairman and, in 1986, was elected President, a job she held for the next 20 years.

Under her direction, Northrop House came to life, telling the history of Sherman and collecting only local furnishings under the tutelage of Mary Hadlow and Alice Schneckenburger.

Thorne was instrumental in the purchase of The Old Store for the historical society in 1998.

Since retiring as president in 2006, she has maintained the active files of history, photography and biographies for Sherman.

She now resides in Fort Myers, Fla., and summers in Sherman.

She serves as an honorary director on the historical society board and is also the historian for the Sherman Congregational Church, which is celebrating its 275th anniversary this year.

Fortenberry studied pottery at Columbia University.

He and his wife lived in a loft in lower Manhattan, where he worked as a commercial artist and in his spare time he made and sold pottery through gift shops, bookstores and the American Crafts Council's America House on 53rd Street and 5th Ave. across from the Modern Museum of Art.

After working in commercial art for Macmillan, Harcourt, Knitted Outerwear, Times, Chemical Bank, an illustrator colleague invited him to take the Department of Education's Commercial Art test for teaching in the public schools.

Fortenberry was assigned to the High School of Art & Design on 57th Street and Second Ave. He retired from this position in 2006.

His loft days are now replaced with an A-frame cabin among an eight-acre track of woods in Pawling, N.Y.