FROM THE DESK OF OUR EDITOR

 

Spring has finally sprung – hooray! And, just in time to help you while away those sunny days in store, is your Spring edition of CAS Collectors Quarterly. As always, we’re sure there’s plenty here for you to enjoy: our latest “Convention Countdown” with all the details on our August 26th event, “Ceramic Arts Studio: Past, Present, & Future!” . . .a listing of this year’s fun-filled “On Display Contest” categories. . .a behind-the-scenes look at Studio life in the 1940s. . .details on one of Betty Harrington’s most popular (and hardest-to-find) pairs, the ultra-modern Adonis & Aphrodite. . .the latest antics of our club mascot, Mr. Mouse, as he continues his scamper through Disney World. . .and oh, so much more! So, like Mr. Mouse, let’s get scampering!

 

AND THE WINNER IS. . .

 

In keeping with our 2017 Convention theme, “Ceramic Arts Studio: Past Present & Future”, last issue’s “CAS Trivia Contest” posed a question all about a couple from the past. . .the far distant past. Here were the clues:

 

“We’re tall, and kind of top-heavy, because our legs are thin and our costumes aren’t. That’s why we have a tendency to lean forward or backward (or it could be our exotic poses!) Who are we?”

 

The answer: the Egyptian Man & Woman. Our first correct response came from CAS Collector Barb Ward, who received a 2016 Convention Commemorative (a ceramic Spoon Rest) for her efforts. Congrats, Barb!

 

AND THE NEXT CONTEST IS. . .

 

Once more, our “CAS Trivia Contest” ties into the “future” part of our 2017 Convention theme. Here are the clues:

 

“18 dollars a dozen? Well, maybe back in 1953, but these days we’re worth a lot more than that! We’ve been holding our backbreaking poses for over 60 years, poured into these skintight costumes. Maybe it’s time to see a chiropractor! Who are we?”

 

Think you know the answer? Sure you do! If not, rest assured it can be found somewhere within the pages of this very newsletter. Once you’ve found it, rush your response to Editor Don Johnson (donaldbrian@msn.com). The first person to answer correctly will receive one of our super-secret 2017 Convention Commemoratives, to be awarded following the Convention. Happy hunting!

 

GOODBYE TO “SHY”

 

We were saddened to learn of the recent passing of Honorary Club Member Josiah “Shy” Sand. Mr. Sand, who worked in sales at CAS, was the brother of Studio co-founder Reuben Sand, and Itzy Sand. We received this message on “Shy’s” passing from his widow, Abigail:

 

“I am sorry to let you know that Josiah passed away in November. He always enjoyed your publication. Thank you so much for sending it to him!”

 

Our thoughts and prayers go out to the Sand family. We’re happy to share with our members one of Shy’s Studio memories in this issue’s “Chat Room”.

 

LETTERS, WE GET LETTERS

 

What’s new in your corner of the world? We’re always happy to hear from fellow CAS Collectors! Here are a few recent comments from some of our favorite correspondents:

 

Betty Carson writes:

 

“Another entertaining newsletter! I always admire the talent it takes to keep ‘Mr. Mouse’ in line! And I do enjoy reading about great CAS finds. Stories like that keep up the collecting spirits of those who run around hoping ‘n looking! Oh, and that ‘Egyptian Couple’ – my, they are handsome!”

. . .and Alice Noltemeyer writes:

 

“Still keeping up my interest in CAS. Not too well, but still ‘above ground’! Stay well!

Love to all from Alice Dahl Noltemeyer, “two gold dots with fond memories”!

 

Thanks, Betty and Alice! Comments like yours make every day a bit brighter!

 

LET’S CHAT

 

We’re always looking for CAS Collectors to feature in our newsletter’s “Chat Room”. How about you? Your fellow members would love to learn more about you and your collecting interests. It’s easy as can be: just fill out the “Chat Room” form included with this newsletter, and return it to Editor Don at the address given. We’ll take it from there, and you’ll soon be in the spotlight! We look forward to hearing from you!

 

SAY WHAT?

 

It’s always a treat to run across an “eBay Oddity” – something the seller is pretty sure was made by CAS, despite all visual evidence to the contrary! The latest: the quintet of nubile maidens shown on our newsletter cover. Here’s what the eBay seller had to say about them:

 

“PRICE REDUCED -- I WANT TO TURN MY WATCHERS INTO WINNERS! Here is a set of 5 (assumed) Ceramic Arts Studio sassy little ladies.( I am saying these are 'assumed' since there are no markings on them, and someone did question their origin.) I'm not an expert so make up your own mind. They are completely in the Ceramic Arts style and color use, so I don't see how they could be by anyone else. Figures are about 4" tall. Sold as a group since it didn't seem right to split them up. No reserve!”

 

So far, nobody’s jumped at the chance to acquire this bevy of definitely-non-CAS beauties. But when it comes to “eBay Oddities” hope springs eternal!

 

IT’S ON DISPLAY TIME!

 

In this issue’s “Convention Countdown” you’ll find a listing of all the exciting categories in this year’s “On Display Contest”. One of those categories is “Themes Like Old Times: Display Best Depicting A Past Convention Theme”. Just in case you are planning an entry in that category, and can’t remember all the past themes, here’s a quick rundown:

(Note: Conventions prior to 2007 were not “themed”)

 

2007: “A CAS Christmas in August” Commemorative: Christmas ornaments

2008: “CAS Celebrates The Fabulous ‘40s” Commemorative: Snowglobes

2009: “CAS Salutes The Fantastic ‘50s” Commemorative: Candy Jars

2010: “An All-American CAS Celebration” Commemorative: Piggy Banks  

2011: “Around The World With CAS” Commemorative: Coaster & Stand

2012: “A CAS Summer Vacation” Commemorative: Travel Mug

2013  Happy Birthday, Betty! A CAS Family ReunionCommemorative: Wine Glass

2014  A Toast To the Past! CAS Collectors’ 20th Anniversary” Commemorative: Bell

2015: “Call Of The Wild: 75 Years Of CAS!” Commemorative: Paperweight

2016: “The Ceramic Arts Storybook” Commemorative: Spoon Rest

2017: “Ceramic Arts Studio: Past, Present, & Future” Commemorative:  ????

 

And by the way: if you’re a CAS Collector who has always wanted to attend a Convention, but haven’t been able to due to health or travel concerns, be sure and check out our new “Remote Photo Entry” category in the “On Display” listings. It’s a category designed especially for you! The idea sprang from a suggestion CAS Collector Betty Carson made, about somehow involving non-attendees in our Convention activities. We listened, and look forward to lots of entries in this brand- new, stand-alone category!

 

FROM A DECORATOR’S KITCHEN

 

Of course, no issue of CAS Collectors Quarterly is ever complete without a recipe courtesy of Studio decorator Marlys Wilkinson. During their years at CAS, Marlys and her co-workers exchanged many favorite recipes, which we’ve included in previous newsletters. After awhile, of course, those ran out, so Marlys has been kind enough to provide us with additional delicious recipes from her own kitchen. This issue’s mouthwatering masterpiece was a specialty of Marlys’ mother:  Butterscotch Pie!

 

3 tbl butter

6 tbl flour

3/4 cup brown sugar

1/4 tsp salt

2 cups milk

2 eggs

½ tsp vanilla

 

Cream the butter and flour together. Add the brown sugar and salt. Pour milk in, gradually beating. Cook in double boiler or over low heat for about 15 min. Stir constantly, add egg yolks well beaten.

 

Cool slightly, add vanilla. Pour into baked pie shell.

 

Top with meringue made with the stiffly beaten egg whites and 1/2 cup sugar. Brown in oven at 325 degrees for 20 min.

 

 Marlys calls this one “my favorite pie”, and it sure sounds tasty! Now, on with another tasty treat: your spring edition of “CAS Collectors Quarterly”! Enjoy!

 

Donald-Brian Johnson

Editor

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REMEMBERING REUBEN

 

By Donald-Brian Johnson

 

Reuben Sand, founder of Ceramic Arts Studio, died on October 21, 2005 of double pneumonia. As per his wishes, Mr. Sand’s ashes were distributed in Half Moon Bay, near his San Mateo, California home. On November 4th, Reuben Sand would have celebrated his 90th birthday.

 

The story of Mr. Sand and the Studio has, over the years, been told so many times that it has assumed the status of familiar legend.  How, in 1940, Reuben and potter Lawrence Rabbitt teamed up to turn a deserted lean-to on Madison’s Blount Street into the loftily-named “Ceramic Arts Studio”. How the Studio’s early hand-thrown pots met with little success (and how many of them leaked!)  How a chance meeting in 1941 with the amazing designer Betty Harrington led Reuben and the Studio in an entirely new direction—the creation of figural ceramics.  And how, thanks to Betty’s talent for design, and Reuben’s talent for production and marketing, the little lean-to in Madison soon became the nation’s top supplier of decorative ceramics.

 

What’s often forgotten is just how young Reuben Sand was when he embarked on his CAS venture—only 25. And, while collectors see the Studio years—from 1940 until 1955—as an endless source of study and enjoyment, for Reuben Sand this was just one stop along the way, in a long and successful life and career.

 

That may be why, for many years, Mr. Sand resisted the urge to reminisce about Studio days—he had, after all, done so much more!  Collectors were overjoyed when, in 1993, Reuben agreed to travel to Madison for the first-ever comprehensive Ceramic Arts Studio exhibit, sponsored by the Wisconsin Pottery Association. A touching, final reunion between entrepreneur Reuben and designer Betty was a highlight of the occasion.  Then it was back to California, and on with life.

 

When it came time to begin work on our book Ceramic Arts Studio: The Legacy of Betty Harrington, my co-authors and I felt it was extremely important to include current commentary by the man who started it all—Reuben Sand.  We already had, thanks to Betty Harrington’s diligence, and the generosity of her family, extensive materials documenting her part of the story. Thanks to CAS researcher Roseann Lindner, we also had detailed recollections by Lawrence Rabbitt.  We’d spoken with many past Studio workers.  What we needed was Reuben.

 

Every several weeks, I called and left a message at the contact number I’d been given. For months there was no response. Then one morning, the phone rang. I picked it up, and a deep, somewhat gravelly voice said, “This is Reuben Sand. Why do you keep calling me?”

 

I explained who I was, and the project I was working on. There was a pause, then Reuben began to express his doubts. He’d “been interviewed before”;  they “always got it wrong”; they “never asked the right questions” and “never let him read it first”.

 

This went on for awhile. When there was a lull, I assured him that we had something different in mind. We planned on using his comments in the first person, just as he conveyed them, editing only for length or repetition. He would see the material before it went to print, and would have the right to correct (or delete) anything inaccurate.

 

Another pause. I could tell he was considering the idea. Then he continued: “What if my comments don’t agree with what other people say?” 

 

“Well,” I replied, “folks will have the opportunity to read both, and can make up their own minds.”

 

Whether that did the trick (or whether he was just tired of talking to me), Mr. Sand agreed.  I was to send him a list of the questions I would be asking. He would call me at a set date and time, and answer those (and only those) questions.  “And I want a transcript.”

 

“No problem,”, I said, (instantly hoping to avail myself of Roseann Lindner’s transcription talents).

 

And so it began.  On the set day, at the set time, the phone rang.  I switched on the recorder. “Hello. This is Reuben Sand.  Question number one---Donald-Brian Johnson asks. . . . Question number one---Reuben Sand replies. . . .”

 

Oh boy, I thought. Is this going to be tedious.  But I’d put together what I felt were some pretty good questions, and at least we’d have those first-person responses, even if they were being read from a carefully prepared script.

 

I tuned back in, just as Reuben was intoning a very lengthy explanation of how he met Larry Rabbitt, and determined to start a business. “We found an empty lean-to at 12 North Blount Street that was 50 feet long by 25 feet wide, and at the time was used for storing rebars. . .”

 

“What are rebars?” I interrupted, in spite of myself.

 

“That’s not on the question list,” said Reuben, and continued: “Lawrence wanted the name of the pottery to be called the ‘Ceramic Arts Studio’. . .”

 

“Why?”

 

“I answer that in question number 5.”

 

“Oh”.

 

There was a pause. “But I suppose I might as well talk about it now. Larry had been making  a few items such as ashtrays and bowls and little pots, and fashioned himself to be working in a ‘studio’—had sort of a nice ring to it—an ‘arts studio’. I simply said, ‘if you think that is a good name, OK’. Later on, people wondered how this ‘arts studio’ was kicking out thousands of pieces—there must have been a lot of artists hard at work!”

 

He chuckled, off script, and enjoying the recollection. From that moment on, the question-and answer list was forgotten, and the memories poured forth fast and furious.

 

This was just the first of many wonderful phone conversations I had with Reuben Sand. Over the next several years, we’d talk on a regular basis. Sometimes I’d call, to make sure I was explaining a particular facet of Studio life correctly. Sometimes he’d call, to clarify or expand on a previous response, or to tell me to look for “a package on its way” (thanks to Reuben, original Studio catalogs, copyrights, photos, and the like soon added to our treasure trove of research material.)

 

 Sometimes, one or the other of us would call “just to talk”.  And, true to my word, I always kept a transcript.

 

When our book was ready for print, I sent Reuben’s sections to him, as promised, for his approval. He was effusive in his praise, offering few corrections, and asking only for the elimination of one brief anecdote. (An early CAS worker had an unhealthy fondness for knives and other sharp objects. Reuben had found the story amusing when he first told it to me, but now thought it might be best removed.  “Who knows?”, he said, “that girl may still be around.  And she may still have those knives!”)

 

Basking in Mr. Sand’s praise, I couldn’t resist adding, “and your words are just as you said them—I’m sure you checked the transcripts.”

 

“Oh”, replied Reuben, “I never read those. I just wanted to see if you would keep your promise.”

 

Reuben Sand was easily one of the most fascinating, entertaining people I’ve met in my life—and I never even had the opportunity to meet him in person!  Imagine the response he must have evoked in those who knew him and worked with him first-hand.  Over and over in my research for our book, I would encounter former Studio workers who would describe Reuben as “the best boss”, and CAS as “the best job ever”.  Somebody was doing something right—and that somebody was Reuben Sand.

 

I once asked Reuben if he ever gave much thought to the Studio “legacy”. A moment or two went by, and then he said, “You know, one of my biggest worries used to be that two thousand years from now some geologist would be digging, and nothing could be found but Ceramic Arts Studio figurines. And the pundits of the time would say, ‘in the years 1940-1960 or so, this was the state of the civilization that existed.’ A pretty good state though. Better than a lot of things they could be digging up. You know, I have so many fond memories of Ceramic Arts Studio and those I worked with. They were all solid, wonderful people.  I guess I am just one of the luckiest guys in the world.”

 

We were the lucky ones, Reuben. Our thanks, for a life well-lived.

 

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