Getting My Motor Running

Collecting 20th century American ceramics is, of course, a 20th century phenomenon. Spending serious attention, never mind money, on 20th century ceramics can be traced to the third quarter of that century.

And attention to mid-century American studio ceramics is, well, a late-20th century phenomenon.

All of this, I suppose, is a little like deconstructing the old Coca-Cola tagline: “It’s the Real Thing.” What’s “it” – Coca-Cola? What’s “the thing” – also Coca Cola? So, Coca-Cola is Coca-Cola.

I’m a clock guy who transitioned to a furniture guy who became a metal guy and, now, is also a ceramics guy.

Evolution? A carefully mapped plan? Or serendipity?

Intuitively and logically, it’s unlikely that the first led to the others. The clock guy favored fussy and ornate oak case wall clocks. But when it came to furniture, he preferred the “plain-Jane” variety. The only ornamentation for metal was the dents where the hammer struck the copper.

Ceramics, though, allows for multiple opportunities from simplicity to extravagance.

And so today I initiate a blog on the broad subjects of 20th century ceramics and crafts including such related subjects as ceramics and craft education and modern design decorative objects.

Full disclosure: I’m currently organizing an exhibition and accompanying catalogue of mid-century modern ceramic work produced by Frans Wildenhain. And this blog will keep readers current on that project.

The blog supports the website for the Wildenhain exhibition – an exhibit, I hasten to note, hosted at two galleries on the Rochester Institute of Technology campus and with free admission.

Frans Wildenhain is a valuable case study. He and his work touch multiple dimensions: studio potter(y), crafts, education about ceramics and crafts, and commercial exploitation.

He taught at RIT (Rochester Institute of Technology) for two decades, was one of the founding faculty of School for American Craftsmen (SAC) when it moved to RIT in 1950, and with SAC colleagues, opened a retail outlet – Shop One – for purposes of commercializing crafts in a traditional retail environment and beyond crafts fairs.

Next time: the mystery piece purportedly made at Frans Wildenhain’s home address.

As always, you’re invited to join the conversation.

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