Museum features horsehair pottery

Farm Forum

A new art exhibition at the Dacotah Prairie Museum in Aberdeen, S.D., features Rapid City ceramic artist Deb Burckhard Messer and her horsehair pottery.

The show, “Horsehair Pottery: Surface Design Discoveries,” will be open on the second floor until July 7.

Horsehair pottery is fabled to have come from ancient Indian tribes that wanted to preserve the spirit of their favorite horses at various stages of life. The pottery pieces are generally simple in shape and are fired at high temperatures to give the piece strength. The piece is then fired again to just below red hot and quickly removed from the kiln. The horsehair is gently laid on in strands. The heat from the vessel causes the hair to curl and kink around as it leaves a black carbon trail. The pots are not finished with glaze but are very porous.

Burckhard Messer has included 31 pieces in the exhibit ranging from large to small, hand-built and wheel-thrown, in all sorts of radiant colors. Several of the vessels have embellishments that include horns and antlers, feathers, leather, rope weaving and wire.

Burckhard Messer grew up along the Missouri River at Chamberlain, and has always been drawn to nature for inspiration. Her passion is for surface design and embellishment, creating pieces that appeal to multiple senses that draw people in to touch and enjoy.

“Working with horsehair finish is so enjoyable because of the incredible design it leaves on the pottery,” Messer said in a news release. “While wonderfully distinct on its own, it also lends beautifully to layering of colors and texture.”

She also spent many years developing her own formulas for finishes and glazing. Having taught classes in several areas and receiving a number of awards for her creations, she prides herself on keeping her work interesting yet versatile, according to a news release.

This is Burckhard Messer’s first exhibit at the museum.