Charles Moses “Charlie” Brown was born in 1904 in Mayport, but moved with his family to Mandarin when he was three years old. There he remained for the next eighty years until his death in 1987.
Though internationally known for his raku-fired pottery, his first interest in art was in painting landscapes and still lifes. In 1951, friend and Mandarin resident Memphis Wood encouraged him to take a pottery class sponsored by the University of Florida and from then on Charlie was hooked on pottery. He later recalled, “As soon as I got hold of the clay, I knew that the rest of my life was going to be in clay.”
In 1962, at the age of 58, he abandoned his career as an accountant for a local produce company and became a full-time potter. Charlie formed all of his pots by hand, finding the potter’s wheel unsatisfying because it produced works that were too perfect. He was introduced to the raku method of firing pottery in the 1960s and it became his trademark. In that technique, pots are pulled red-hot from the furnace and placed in organic matter – in Charlie’s case, sawdust. In addition to pots, Charlie also created jewelry, wall hangings, and even Christmas ornaments (some of which were selected by Vice President and Mrs. Walter Mondale for their Christmas tree in the Vice President’s Residence.) When temporarily unable to work in clay due to a hand injury from an automobile accident he began creating large woodblock monoprints.
Charlie’s works are found in major collections including the Smithsonian, the Johnson Wax Collection and numerous museums. His pots were included in many books and magazines including OBJECTS:USA, Ceramics Monthly, and Time magazine. Some of his paintings and pottery are displayed at the Mandarin Museum.
I love clay! – the way it looks – the way it feels when I mix it with my hands – the first glimpse of a glowing pot when the kiln is opened. I even enjoy the back-breaking task of digging it. I suppose, then, that it is perfectly natural that I have become so absorbed with the making of clay objects that it has become my very life – My greatest wish is that I will leave behind me a few statements in clay that have a timeless and precious quality which makes for endurance. – Charlie Brown