[Clayart] 20 potters, a long time ago

Hank Murrow hmurrow at efn.org
Sun Jan 30 15:45:52 UTC 2022

> On Jan 30, 2022, at 4:53 AM, mel jacobson <melpots at mail.com> wrote:
> It is hard to explain to new potters, young potters how it was
> in the "olden days".  1958.
> It took a year or three for anything to filter its way to Minnesota.
> California was like on the moon. No internet, no facebook, no utube.
> USPS or the phone, or get in your car and go someplace new.
> Dan Rhodes made the first really modern impact with his books.
> In many ways, the Leech book was a fairy tale. the most important
> technical information was 1234 glaze.  Don't get me wrong, Leech was
> inspirational. But, not a technical writer.

And in that same 1958, a 19 year-old Hank was on a propellor! plane from Los Angeles to Eugene, having graduated from Santa Monica City College,
And enrolled in the Architecture School at the U. of Oregon. Winter term and starting a sculpture class with an emigre prof from Hungary I did 
not like, I went to my Basic design teacher Bob James and asked him if I could transfer to his Ceramics class. 

I was transfixed during his beginning talk, in which he told a story at the blackbaord about Pacific weather bringing in moisture which the mountains squeezed out in the form of rain and snow, which broke the rocks and carried particles down the rivers and into the estuaries, where they settled to form clays. Soon, I was at a table covered with canvas, where the class emptied bags of fireclay, red clay, feldspar, and sand, mixing them slowly with our hands and then making a trough down the middle, which we filled with clay slurry from recycle barrels. Then began the slow hand mixing of the ingredients as the formed clumps on the table. Soon we were slamming and cutting the clay at wedging tables, before tossing the clay into a concrete bin that had been wetted.

Six weeks later, I was throwing at one of the Marguerite Wildenhain/German-style kickwheels, when Bob James sidled up and asked if I wanted to fire
a load of pots in the gas kiln, a 20 cuft Alpine. I said sure, and met him later to learn what to do. I have told the story of that first firing several times 
here on clayart, in which I missed the Cone 9 going down and overfired the kiln. The next day, Bob said, well if you can get new radiants replaced, 
and re-load it, you can try again to get it right. I did, and eventually built over 170 kilns and counting in my 64 year career. Voulkos taught me to wedge 
the Oriental way when I mixed clay for his demos the next year, and I was on my way.

We heard about doings in the East, because Bob always brought in teachers to expand our vision beyond what he offered. Prieto, Leach, Cardew, Harry Davis, Voulkos, and Rhodes, along with several others recieved a warm welcome in Eugene, from students who had a good grounding. By 1967, I had graduated with my MFA in hand, I had built twelve kilns, and was ready to try teaching myself, first with George Kokis in Athens, Ohio, who was very generous to an emigré from the Left Coast. I built two kilns there, and then went to Aspen and Anderson Ranch, where I built three, plus the furnaces, 
glory holes, and annealing ovens for a glassblower who did not know how to do that. 

I Credit Bob James and David Stannard at Oregon for their careful mentoring and support at Oregon, along with many others from NCECA and 
Clayart, who have demonstrated a willingness to listen to the questions of newcomers, and given considered counsel over the years, while traversing 
their own journey with clay.

Cheers to All, Hank in Eugene

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