FROM THE DESK OF OUR EDITOR

 

Forget the last dregs of that wintry weather. Spring will soon be upon us, but until it arrives, here’s the latest issue of CAS Collectors Quarterly to keep you cozy!

 

As always, there’s plenty to keep you interested! In observance of our 2018 Convention theme, “Ceramic Arts Studio: Decorating The Decades!, several features focus on those all-important cogs of the CAS operation: the decorators! You’ll enjoy a profile of the Studio’s first Head Decorator, Zona Liberace. . .an answer to that oft-asked question, “what are lunch hour pieces?”. . .and Betty Harrington’s first-person glimpse at some “decorating dilemmas”. Plus, we feature the Antique Center of LaCrosse as our “Antique Mall of the Quarter”, offer a look at three mid-century ceramics icons (Sascha Brastoff, Marc Bellaire, and Matthew Adams), and present “Convention Countdown #1”.

And, never fear, our Club Mascot Mr. Mouse is once again on hand, to let you know all about how a mouse cleans house! So what are we waiting for? Let’s get rolling!

 

AND THE WINNER IS. . .

 

Last issue’s “Trivia Contest” focused on a favorite CAS twosome. In keeping with our 2018 Convention theme, these two, dressed in costumes of the good old days, can certainly be said to have “decorated the decades”. Here were the clues:

 

“We were actually released in two versions. Some folks call us by our given names, but were best known as “The ‘_ _ _     _ _’s Couple.’ I look demurely to one side, while my dapper, derby-carrying escort, and his well-behaved dog, give me a dignified bow.  Oh, and besides that, we’re the favorite CAS duo of the person profiled in this issue’s ‘CAS Chat Room’. Who are we?”

 

The answer: the Gay 90s Couple (aka Harry & Lillibeth), a favorite of decorator Marlys Wilkinson! The first correct response came courtesy of Barb Ward. For her detecting efforts, Barb received our 2017 Commemorative, the Twin Planters. Congratulations!

 

AND THE NEXT CONTEST IS. . .

 

In keeping with our 2018 Convention theme, this issue’s “Trivia Contest” focuses on another popular CAS twosome, one of whom presented a unique decorating challenge. Here are the clues:

 

“Sure, folks call us ‘square’, but my partner and I think we’re pretty cool! You’ll find us dancing the night away. She’s a vision in her swirling skirt, and I think my shirt’s pretty nifty, too – although I understand it had some CAS decorators seeing double! Who are we?”

 

Think you know the answer? Of course you do! If not, just read through your newsletter, and you’re sure to find it. Once you have, rush your response to Editor Don Johnson (donaldbrian@msn.com). The first person to answer correctly will also receive our 2017 Convention Commemorative, the Twin Planters. Happy hunting!

 

OH, THAT MOUSE!

 

In our last issue, we mentioned that Club Mascot Mr. Mouse, and his long-suffering keeper, Mary Lamm-Feltman, took first place in the new “Remote Photo Entry” category, part of the “On Display” contest at our 2017 Convention. Upon hearing the good news, Mr. M. insisted that we share the photo of their prize-winning entry with you. You’ll find it on the cover of this issue. Our camera-loving rodent had no trouble at all summoning up a smile when the photographer instructed, “say cheese!”

 

DELIGHTFUL DISPLAYS

 

Mr. Mouse wasn’t the only winner in our 2017 “On Display Contest” (though he may like to think so!) There were plenty of fun-filled and imaginative entries in this year’s event, and a montage of winners is shown on the back cover of this issue. Our congratulations and thanks to all who took part!

 

And, it’s never too early to start thinking about this year’s “On Display Contest”. The 2018 categories will be announced in our Spring edition of CAS Collectors Quarterly – but now’s the time to dust off those thinking caps (and those CAS figurines), and start coming up with ideas. “Ceramic Arts Studio: Decorating The Decades!” offers plenty of exciting possibilities!

 

By the way, have you “decorated for decades” in your own home with CAS? Your fellow CAS Collectors would love to see how you display your CAS collection at home, for your personal enjoyment. Just send a photo to Editor Don Johnson (contact info given earlier), and we’ll be sure to include it in an upcoming issue. With any luck, we’ll find some creative ideas to “borrow”!

 

LETTERS, WE GET LETTERS. . .

 

For those of us who put together CAS Collectors Quarterly, nothing’s better than receiving newsletter comments from our readers. . .especially when they’re nice ones! Here’s what our friend Betty Carson had to say about the Fall issue:

 

“I enjoyed my newsletter so much! (Though I have to confess I finished the novel I was reading first, and the cake I made. . .and tested it. Carrot – yum!) Really, it’s superb (the newsletter, that is – well, the cake, too!) I thought the quilt looked terrific! I’m so happy for Alice (who won the quilt), along with just a bit of envy! The newsletter was just great, as always. Thanks to all.”

 

And thanks to you, Betty! The appreciation of our fellow CAS Collectors makes all the hard work worthwhile!

 

LET’S CHAT

 

Your CAS Collectors friends would like to learn all about you and your collecting interests! If you’d like to be featured in an upcoming “Chat Room”, just fill out the enclosed form, and send it to Editor Don Johnson: donaldbrian@msn.com (3329 South 56th Street, #611, Omaha, Ne 68106). We’ll take it from there!

 

FROM A DECORATOR’S KITCHEN

 

As always, no issue of CAS Collectors Quarterly is 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, those ran out – but Marlys was kind enough to provide us with additional delicious recipes from her own kitchen! This issue’s taste treat is guaranteed to warm up any wintry day!

 

Best-Ever Banana Bread

 

2 ripe medium bananas, mashed

2 eggs

1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour

1-1/2 cups sugar

1 cup chopped walnuts

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1/4 cup plus 1 tbl buttermilk

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp vanilla

1/2 tsp salt

 

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease and flour 9 x 5” loaf pan. Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl, and mix well. Put in pan. Bake until the top is golden brown, and splits slightly (about 1 hour and 20 minutes). Serve warm. Makes 1 loaf.

 

Marlys says, “don’t double the recipe. However, for 2 loaves, you can just use 2 smaller loaf pans, and don’t bake as long.”

--

 

Thanks, Marlys! Maybe we can all rustle up some banana bread to munch on while paging through this Winter 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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