Moderator: Susan Nurse, Visual Resources Coordinator, Memorial Art Gallery,
Rochester, New York
Recorder: Jennifer Hehman, Reference Librarian, Indiana University, Indianapolis
Sponsors: Women in Art Round Table , Decorative Arts Round Table
Speakers: Mary Sayre Haverstock, Director, Ohio Artist Project, Oberlin,
Ohio "The Fair Toilers: Cincinnati Women and the Art Pottery Phenomenon
Joan Witt , Historian, East Liverpool, Ohio, "History of Women in the East Liverpool Pottery Industry into the 20th Century"
Lynette Korenic, University of Wisconsin, Madison, "The Inspirational Susan Frackleton: Milwaukee Ceramist and Inventor"
Mark Bassett, Ph.D., Author of Introducing Roseville Pottery, "Edris Eckhardt-Art for Education, The Ceramic Sculpture of Cleveland's WPA
This session will focus on the often-overlooked leadership contributions
of women in the art pottery field. Historically, the position occupied
women in art pottery was simply as china painters or at most, decorators. The design, manufacture, and certainly the organization and ownership of
potteries was always assumed to be male. This is far from the case as speakers in this session will demonstrate. Women's leadership in the art
pottery industry began with the Arts and Crafts Movement of the 1870's continuing well into the 20th century and extending into the western states,
as the country expanded its boundaries.
Mary Sayre Haverstock presented the story of the two
women who sparked the Cincinnati Art Pottery movement: Miss Louise McLaughlin
and Mrs. Maria Longworth Nichols (later Mrs. Storer). Both had dabbled
in china painting, and both were entranced by the ceramics they saw at
the 1876 Centennial Exposition - McLaughlin by the Haviland limoges display,
and Nichols by the Japanese exhibit. But the two had little else
in common, and by 1880 they were actively competing with each other.
By then, after repeated failures, McLaughlin had perfected an under-the-glass
decorating technique so close to Haviland's that people called it
"Cincinnati Limoges". In 1879 she formed the Cincinnati Pottery Club, a
select group of women with whom she shared her discovery. Mrs. Nichols
(who did not receive an invitation to join) established a pottery of her
own in 1880, calling it "Rookwood," after the Longworth family estate.
With her father's money she opened a ceramics school and hired a small
staff of potters and decorators (paying $5 per week to men and $3 to women).
Rookwood's first product was a line of ordinary household ware which, Nichols
hoped, would sell well enough to support her own ceramic attempts in the
Japanese style. But haphazard book-keeping and poor management actually
cost the pottery thousands of dollars annually until she hired a professional
business manager in 1883, William Watts Taylor. Meanwhile, the secrets
of McLaughlin's "Limoges" leaked out and were swiftly appropriated by Nichols's
employees, making it possible for Rookwood to begin producing the handsome,
one-of-a-kind pieces for which it is remembered today. Mr. Taylor
closed the Rookwood School, discontinued the unprofitable line of table
ware, and fired most female workers, replacing them with able young graduates
of the Cincinnati Art Academy; and despite a catastrophic flood which nearly
ruined the pottery in 1884, he was finally able to show a profit in 1889.
In 1890, the Pottery Club (McLaughlin), outspent and outmaneuvered
from the beginning, was forced to disband, leaving Rookwood (Nichols )
the uncontested winner.
Joan Witt 's presentation on the East Liverpool Ohio Ceramics Industry gave the history of a town that since 1839 has been the site of more than 200
potteries. Early in the 1840's when the pottery industry began in the town, some companies were co-owned by women with their husbands. They would work as "sales ladies" while their husbands worked in production in small family run businesses. In at least two cases, these women assumed full ownership and management of the potteries because of death or retirement of their husbands. One original bottle kiln from this period remains to this day. Gradually, more women began to be employed individually outside of the family as businesses grew, especially from 1870 on. Women at the time
earned 75 cents a day while unskilled men earned $1.29, not a living wage even then. The lives of the women who worked in the factories were
documented with historic photographs showing their tasks and work spaces. In the 1880's as unions were beginning to be formed, the women of East
Liverpool joined in these activities with the men. The invention of typewriters affected the industry and women employees when Homer Laughlin
(of Fiesta ware fame) hired the first female "typewriter" in the industry in 1886. She was paid the weekly wage of $12.00 for sixty hours of work. This
eliminated the practice of men writing all correspondence and office orders in longhand and opened up office jobs fit for women as " stenographers".
By 1891, 577 women and 650 children worked in the area, about 30% of the total pottery workforce . Women were then paid an average of a dollar per 12 hour day, still about half the rate of unskilled men. In the 1890's due to an economic depression and layoffs, wages were reduced and the men went on strike. After a negotiated settlement of the strike, women workers began to demand that their wages remain at least at 75 cents per day and they formed their own union. By 1910, over 600 women went on strike to demand a raise from 96 cents to $1.10 per day and a 15 minute lunch break! They won a nine cent raise and a lunch time compromise. By 1924, the warehouse women earned an average $12.24 per week, while the decal "girls" and liners were paid more. Still that was considerably less than the lowest paid men. During the 1930's the hourly rate for
potters was 40 cents for men and 32 cents for women. Many women worked in the decorating and decal departments, some were artists and designers, but the highest paying position was that of the liner or gilder. In contrast to the photographs of the actual women working in the potteries were the images of idealized women (Gibson Girls) portrayed on their plates and trays during the period of a popular style called "decalomania". The changing images of women on the pottery products reflected the changing view of women held by contemporary society. Today, women are employed in all areas of the industry and are paid the same scale as the men. There is now a Museum of Ceramics in East Liverpool , Ohio that celebrates and preserves the history of the industry. Companies still in operation at East Liverpool include the Homer Laughlin Company (Fiesta ware) and the Hall China Company. An annual festival is held on the third weekend in June.
Lyn Korenic spoke on the inspirational leadership of Susan Frackleton,
(1848-1932), a ceramics artist, author, entrepreneur and teacher in
Milwaukee, Wisconsin during the end of the 19th century and into the twentieth. She was active in both the china painting and art pottery
movements. She lived a life of "cultured unconventionality" and inspired many women to begin or continue their artistic activities. Frackleton began
her career by experimenting extensively with the local cream colored brick clay. She opened Frackleton's China Decorating Works in 1877 where she often employed professionally trained decorators to work with her and execute her work and where she taught ceramics classes. She was
particularly active in Wisconsin's industrial expositions and won numerous medals at the World's Fairs, an accomplishment she noted on the bills of
sale from her shop. She won a gold medal at the World's Columbian Exposition (1893) in Chicago for one of her salt-glazed stoneware pieces.
In her book, Tried by Fire : a Work on China Painting, 1886, she discusses practical advice for designing ceramics, selecting decorating tools,
manufacturing of colors and firing techniques. Her manual followed in the path of the earlier technical manual by Mary Louise McLaughlin, China
Painting, 1877. Both manuals encourage readers to look directly at nature for motifs and imagery, however, Frackleton's book also encouraged
decorators to seek inspiration in native design sources. Frackleton's own painted china follows many of the designs in her book. She also invented a
portable gas kiln that she sold to many china painters so they could continue with their artwork at home. By 1894, she had developed Frackleton
Dry Watercolors which were odorless, and thus healthier, china paint colors. Susan Frackleton helped found in 1891 the National League of Mineral
Painters, an association for which she served as president. In 1902, she moved to Chicago where she spent the last years of her life doing book
illumination, traveling, lecturing on the arts and crafts, and teaching. Ms. Korenic ended her talk with examples of Frackleton's art work from the
State Historical Society of Wisconsin.
Mark Bassett's artist: Edris Eckhardt brought us into the twentieth
century in art pottery. Edythe Aline Eckhardt took the androgynous
name of "Edris"
when she decided to become a ceramic artist. She did not want to be known as a "woman" artist. She began her studies at the Cleveland School (now
Institute) of Art, when she often spent Saturday mornings observing and working at the Cowan Pottery Studio. There she learned skills in hand
decoration and glazing. She was greatly influenced by the Cleveland Museum of Art, especially the "May Show" annual exhibit of local artists. She
exhibited several of her works there. She was influenced by Ohio artist Viktor Schreckengost and by the sculpture of Alexander Archipenko, with
whom she studied briefly. As the Depression was making inroads into artists' livelihood in Cleveland, Edris found an ally in Linda Eastman,
Director of the Cleveland Public Library. Then in December of 1933 the P.W.A.P. program began with the purpose of decorating public buildings with
works of art. The goal of the project was to use themes in the artwork to educate the public. Under this program, Edris created ceramic figurines
inspired by Mother Goose Rhymes and other children's stories. These Edris individually hand-modeled and hand decorated, after which they were glazed and fired by Nora Dyer, another Art School ceramics teacher. Under the next Federal program, the Federal Art Project (FAP) of the Works Progress Administration (WPA), Edris began using piece molds to produce limited editions of her designs. As an independent artist, she also continued to exhibit unique pieces and to teach ceramics classes on Saturdays (off the FAP clock). Her figurines could be decorated simply, using a few solid
colors, or finely detailed. Her "Alice"series won 1st Prize, Ceramic Sculpture, at the Cleveland Museum of Art"s 1936 May show. As Edris got
more orders for the figurines, she acquired a staff to facilitate production. At one point, as many as 8 decorators worked with Edris in the
studio on this project. In 1937, she exhibited her "Uncle Remus group" from Song of the South winning 3rd prize. She began more "allegorical" figurines while continuing to produce the popular "storybook" figurines. By Spring of 1938, one of her students-Grace Luse-- had become her assistant, supervising most of the glazing and firing, and overseeing the staff when Edris was out of town. From 1938-1939, while still under the F.A.P. Luce designed a series of family groups in historic costume. Another artist-Elisabeth Anderson Seaver, who had been a Cowan student and designer-produced a small series of families in Ethnic costume. Emilie Scrivens designed Winnie the Pooh and Cinderella figures. A number of male artists worked on the project too, including Nils Hanson, Alexander Blazys, Joseph Motto, and others. About that time, Edris offered new figures based on works by Shakespeare and Dickens. In 1939, her works were exhibited at the New York Worlds Fair and at the GoldenGate Exposition in San Francisco. Her garden figure "Atlantis" was intended for a public area of one of Cleveland's new housing projects, the first in the nation. She was one of many local artists to design and produce ceramic tiles for public housing apartments and administration buildings in Cleveland. When funding for the F.A.P. ended in July 1939, the Works Progress Administration was also reorganized as the "Work Projects Administration." Individual states were encouraged to continue their art projects with less support from the federal government. During 1940-41, working for the Ohio W.P.A. Art Project-which was the third and final Depression-era federal program to support creative work in ceramics-several of Edris's students began to reach artistic maturity, with no formal art training other than what they received from her. These included Margaret Counts, Stella Jeszke, and Ann Simon, each of whom now exhibited independently in the annual May Shows. With the coming war, the government funded artist projects were discontinued. Nicknamed "Mrs. Cleveland" by a 1942 profile in the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Edris continued to win important awards in sculpture, in both the media of ceramics and glass. She died in 1999 in Cleveland at the age 93. This concluded Mr. Bassett's remarks.
As the time allotted for the session was nearly over, the speakers held a short question and answer period..
Recorded Report submitted by Jennifer Hehman, Reference Librarian,
University Library-IUPUI, Indiana University -Indianapolis.
Jennifer Hehman, Reference Librarian
University Library -IUPUI, UL2102B
755 West Michigan Street
Indianapolis, Indiana 46202-5195