Daisy Caldwell Wade Bridges, 1932-2015

Oct. 18, 2015

Thomas writes: ”I worked with Henry and Daisy Bridges a lot during the early years as a volunteer and, later, as a teacher for Community School of the Arts.”

Daisy Caldwell Wade Bridges

CHARLOTTE – Daisy Caldwell Wade Bridges died peacefully Wednesday, October 14, 2015, at her residence.

An internationally recognized authority on ceramics and pottery, Mrs. Bridges led the successful effort to establish Charlotte’s Mint Museum of Art as a major resource center for the study and display of ceramic art and pottery.

For more than half a century, Mrs. Bridges and her husband enriched the cultural life of this community in countless ways.

She was born July 10, 1932, in Bluefield, W. Va., the daughter of the late Dr. Edwin Carter Wade and his wife, the late Ernestine Caldwell Barger Wade.

151018BridgesShe came to Charlotte in 1960 when her husband, Henry Percival Bridges, Jr., accepted a call to become Organist and Choir Director at First Presbyterian Church.

Mrs. Bridges began her professional career in 1955 as the Assistant Manager of Josiah Wedgwood & Sons, Ltd., in New York City, and she traveled frequently to the Wedgwood factory in Stoke on Trent in England. During that time she became personally acquainted with members of the Wedgewood family, and she subsequently brought Hensleigh Wedgwood, head of the America Division of the company, to Charlotte for visits and for the Wedgewood International Seminar.

She was the first American woman and the third American to be invited to speak at the Royal Academy of Arts to the English Ceramic Circle in London and the Wedgwood Society of London. A founding member of the American Ceramic Circle, she served on the Circle’s Board of Directors.

Over the years she delivered numerous lectures on ceramic topics at museums across this country and in Great Britain. She was the founder of the Ceramic Circle of Charlotte, and she served as chairman of the Circle. She was president of the Wedgewood International Seminar from 1976-77 and was an honorary member of its board.

After her marriage and move to Charlotte, Mrs. Bridges began teaching classes on Wedgewood, and she focused her expertise, research and resources on the Mint Museum of Art and the Mint Museum Auxiliary. She became president of the auxiliary, and she served as a member of the museum’s Board of Directors and its Executive Board.

During those years, Mrs. Bridges traveled extensively to research the history and production of ceramics, to view exhibitions and develop friendships with ceramic artists.

Both she and her husband were named Life Members of the Mint Museum of Art, in recognition of their multiples contributions to the museum. She was responsible for the acquisition of several of the museum’s major collections, including the Melanie Delhom Collection of European and Asian ceramics, the Dorothy and Walter Auman Collection of North Carolina Pottery, and the Pat H. Johnson Collection of Oscar Louis Batchelder Pottery.

In addition to engineering the acquisitions of these collections, Mrs. Bridges augmented each collection with the donation of pieces which she herself purchased. In all, she donated hundreds of pieces from North Carolina, Ohio, the American Southwest, and New England.

A world traveler, she visited all 50 states in this country, and she traveled to 85 other countries. She researched ceramics and pottery in the United States, in China and in Europe. She curated exhibitions and wrote several books based on her research, including the 1997 publication of “Ash Glazes in Ancient China and the American South.”

Mrs. Bridges served as curator for these exhibitions at The Mint Museum of History: Potters of the Catawba Valley; Burlon Craig; In Prayse of Potts; Oscar L. Batchelder; Walter Stephen; American Art Potter; Bennington Pottery, Bennington, VT; American Views on English Pottery; and English Creamware for Cottage and Castle.

She wrote and edited these catalogues: Potters of the Catawba Valley, The Pottery of Walter Stephen, and Oscar L. Batchelder.

One hallmark of Daisy Bridges’ deep interest in ceramics was her correspondingly deep interest in the people who create and collect ceramic art. Such was the case in her successful effort to bring the Delhom collection to Charlotte.

She met Miss Mellanay Delhom at the 1962 Wedgewood International Seminar in Chicago, and as their friendship deepened, they began to share the vision of bringing the collection to Charlotte, specifically to the Mint Museum of Art. As friends, they brought that vision to reality, and in time Miss Delhom made Charlotte her home.

Certainly this was true when it came to potters. As her interest in pottery grew, Mrs. Bridges became close friends with the individuals and the families who produced the pottery. She was there for their kiln openings, their festivals, their family celebrations, and their day-to-day work at the potter’s wheel. She literally learned to speak their language. Her understanding of the processes they used was profound, and the potters loved and accepted her as one of their won. Two of her closest friends among potters were Burlon Craig (1914-2002) and Dorothy “Dot” Cole Auman (1925-1991). She introduced Craig to the international market in the late 1970s via Sotheby’s, and this led to a show by Craig at the Smithsonian. Mrs. Auman was a member of the Cole family, which had a long tradition in North Carolina pottery, and she developed a potter’s museum that included pieces representing the history of pottery in this state. Mrs. Bridges was responsible for acquiring that collection for the Mint.

The numerous honors bestowed on Mrs. Bridges include an Honorary Membership in the Delhom Service League. In 2001, she received Distinguished Service in Ceramic Arts and was an honorary member of the Board of Clayworks, a nonprofit company for the promotion and development of the ceramic arts.

A direct descendant of Alexander Craighead, an American patriot and the first minister of Sugaw Creek Presbyterian Church and Rocky River Presbyterian Church, Mrs. Bridges had deep roots in Mecklenburg County and in North Carolina. Another of her direct ancestors was David Caldwell, also a Presbyterian minister and patriot, who founded The Log College in Greensboro, the state’s first college. She treasured her family ties to this area, and she was dedicated to the preservation of historic sites.

A member of The National Society of the Colonial Dames of America, she served as secretary of the society’s Mecklenburg Chapter. She served as a member of the board of Historic Rosedale, Latta Plantation, and the Hezekiah Alexander House. In 2001 she was selected by Mary Norton Kratt in a writeup in New South Women and in 2004, she organized the first “Art of Craft” fund-raising event at Historic Rosedale.

Mrs. Bridges was a graduate of Beaver High School in Bluefield, W. Va., and Ward Belmont College in Nashville, TN. In 1953, she earned a BA degree in Art History and Ancient History at the University of North Carolina, and in 1955 she received a master’s degree in Business Retailing and Merchandising from New York University.

She and Mr. Bridges were married in 1955, and they spent the following year in Paris.

During their years in Charlotte, they were volunteer workers at Crisis Assistance Ministry and Winghaven.

Mrs. Bridges is survived by her husband, Henry Bridges; two children, Wade Thomas Bridges and wife, Mary Ellen Washburn Bridges of Bloomfield Hills, MI and Dr. Lindsay Caldwell Bridges of Charlotte; grandchildren, Jackson David Bridges, Caroline Shelby Bridges, Irina Daisy Bridges and Maria Daisy Bridges as well as sister-in-law, Ann Chambers Wade She was preceded in death by her brother, Edwin Carter Wade, Jr.

A service to celebrate her life will be held 2 p.m. Monday, Oct. 19, 2015, at First Presbyterian Church in Charlotte with the Rev. Katherine C. Kerr officiating. The family will receive friends following the service in The Fellowship Hall. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to Crisis Assistance Ministry, 500 Spratt St. Charlotte, NC 28206. Robertson Funeral & Cremation Service is serving the family www.throbertson.com.