FROM THE DESK OF OUR EDITOR

 

The big day is fast approaching! By the time you receive this newsletter, it will be just a few short weeks until Convention 2018: “Ceramic Arts Studio: Decorating The Decades!” Many of the articles in this issue of CAS Collectors Quarterly relate directly to our Convention theme. Our “Chat Room” focuses on CAS decorators, and other valued staff members, and offers their first-hand remembrances of Studio life. “As Betty Intended” brings back a vintage “Day At The Studio” article, while “Questions From Our Website” answers that age-old question:  where do decorators come from?”

 

And, of course there’s our “Convention Countdown” with all the details on the event, and a “Down Memory Lane” look at Conventions past. Plus, of course plenty more fun features, including an overview of “Kids In Ceramic”, and the latest antics of our club mascot, Mr. Mouse.

 

So what are we waiting for? Pour yourself an icy lemonade (for starters), settle back in your deck chair, and enjoy our Summer edition of CAS Collectors Quarterly. See you in Madison!

 

AND THE WINNER IS. . .

 

In our Spring issue, we posed the following “CAS Trivia Contest” question:

 

“We’re tall and willowy, and never ‘mask’ our inner feelings. One of us is happy, the other not so much. You might say we’re born to entertain. Who are we?”

 

The answer? That elegant duo, Comedy & Tragedy, who are also the “cover girls” on this year’s Convention poster. There was a tie for “first correct response”, and the lucky winners are Ross Campbell and Barb Bowers. Said Ross, “WOW! This is the first time I have answered the question, and I never thought I would win!” As for Barb, we know that her niece Beth can look forward to another CAS Commemorative to add to her ever-growing collection! Ross and Barb will each receive one of our super-secret 2018 Convention Commemoratives, to be sent after the Convention. Congrats!

 

AND SPEAKING OF COMMEMORATIVES

 

Without giving away any secrets, let’s just say that our Commemorative Queen, CAS Board member Lisa Louis, has outdone herself with this year’s Commemorative! Each Convention-goer will receive one at the get-together, but extras can be ordered by any and all club members, and will be sent following the Convention. Full details appear in our “Classifieds” section, so don’t delay – order today! You’ll be glad you did!

 

AND THE NEXT CONTEST IS. . .

 

Sometimes the challenges faced by CAS decorators produced unexpectedly hilarious  results. One of Bonnie Jean Kinne’s Studio mishaps is the subject of this issue’s “CAS Trivia Contest”. Here are the clues, in Bonnie’s own words:

 

“One day, I accidentally dipped hundreds of these in green!  The glazes looked alike, you see, and you had to read to get the right one! So if you run across a ­_ _ _ _ _ with a green _ _ _ _ _ _ , you’ll know it’s one of mine!”

 

Just fill in the blanks, and you’ll have the answer! It’s included somewhere within the articles of this issue. Once you’ve found it, rush your response to Editor Don Johnson (donaldbrian@msn.com). The first correct respondent will receive one of our extra-special, super-secret 2018 Commemoratives following the Convention. Let the hunt begin!

 

DOT DOT DOT

 

Longtime club member Lori Johnson writes:

 

“Would it be possible to put a list together of decorators and their signature “dots”, plus colors? It would be nice to put faces with pieces.”

 

The “dots” Lori mentions were the unique markings each decorator placed just inside the drain hole of each piece she decorated. Each decorator was assigned a combination of colored dots as an identifying mark. These ticks served an important purpose: if decorating problems arose, the Head Decorator, (Zona Liberace, and later, Mildred “Millie” Ehle), could quickly trace the piece back to its artist. The marks also helped keep count of each decorator’s daily output, and are a clear identifier of a CAS piece.

 

Unfortunately, the Studio records we’ve accumulated over the years do not include a dot/decorator checklist. The markings we’ve been able to connect with specific decorators have come through the memories that individual decorators have shared with us. In honor of our Convention theme, “Ceramic Arts Studio: Decorating The Decades!”, this issue’s “Chat Room” includes many of those memories. When known, we’ve included decorator mark info. With luck, sharp-eyed collectors may one day run across an original “Marlys”, “Alice”, or even a “Millie”! 

 

GEORGIA ON OUR MINDS

 

We were saddened to learn from Ruth Pingry, Georgia Wiverstad’s daughter, of Georgia’s recent passing. Georgia was a valued member of the Ceramic Arts Studio staff, and Ruth said she “enjoyed her time there”. Several items from Georgia’s personal CAS collection are included in this year’s Convention auction. The thoughts and prayers of all CAS Collectors are with Georgia’s family.

 

CONVENTION CHECKLIST

 

You’ll run across full Convention details later in this newsletter, but here are a few reminders to include on your “things I simply must do” checklist:

 

  • Have you sent in your Convention registration yet? There’s still time, and a form is conveniently enclosed with this newsletter.  We hope to see you in Madison!
  • Can’t attend? Well, you can still take part from a distance! Non-attendees can purchase Quilt Raffle tickets in advance, and enter the “Remote Photo” category in this year’s “On Display” contest. Check out all the info in “Convention Countdown III”!
  • And speaking of “On Display”, Convention-goers are hopefully already preparing displays for entry in the fifteenth annual edition of this popular Convention activity. All the categories and details can be found in “Convention Countdown”.
  • Ready for some “Auction Action”?  All listings for this year’s Convention Auction should be sent to Hank Kuhlmann’s attention by August 13th (hankk@omahasteaks.com)
  • What’s one of the best things about Convention weekend in Madison? Why, the WPA Show & Sale, of course! This year’s sale of sales is set for Saturday, August 25th from 9 am-3:30 pm at the Alliant Energy Center. An enclosure with this  newsletter has all the info.
  • Did I mention don’t forget to register? Well, just in case: don’t forget to register!

 

OH, THAT MOUSE!

 

As you’ll read elsewhere in this issue, our club mascot Mr. Mouse was eager to offer assistance when his caretakers, Mary and Rick Feltman embarked on a kitchen renovation project. Before work got underway though, Mary wrote:

 

“I have to go check on Mr. Mouse. He is being awfully quiet, and usually that means he is raiding the food pantry. We are thinking of remodeling our kitchen, and are now considering buying a safe to replace the pantry.  I don’t think I have to explain why!”

 

That Mr. Mouse. What a character!

 

FROM A DECORATOR’S KITCHEN

 

As we celebrate “Ceramic Arts Studio: Decorating The Decades!”, what could be more fitting than another recipe courtesy of one of our favorite CAS decorators, 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! Here’s one that’s just the ticket for those lazy, hazy, crazy, HOT days of summer!

 

LEMON CREAM MOLD

 

1 3-oz. pkg. lemon flavored Jello

1/2 cup sugar

1/8 tsp. salt

1 cup boiling water

1 6-oz. can frozen lemonade concentrate

1 cup whipping cream – whipped

 

Blend Jello, salt, and sugar in bowl. Add boiling water, and stir until dissolved. Stir in the lemonade. Chill until mixture has a jelly-like consistency. Fold in whipped cream. Put in 4-cup mold. Fill center with fruit (or around the sides), and garnish with mint leaves.

 

Notes Marlys, “I have doubled this recipe and it’s great for brunches! It’s pretty with watermelon balls, cantaloupe balls, strawberries, fresh blueberries, or raspberries.”

 

Pretty cool, Marlys! By the way, for those of you attending the Convention, Marlys and family members will be in attendance. You won’t want to miss your opportunity to talk with this fascinating lady, learn more about the Studio, and thank her for contributing to the “decades of decoration” that mean so much to all of us!

 

And now. . .on with the show!  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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