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Published onSep 21, 2020

Otto Heino (American, 1915 - 2009)
Vivika Heino (American, 1910 - 1995)
Stoneware, soda fired
Gift of Ingrid Lilligren. In the permanent collection, Brunnier Art Museum, University Museums, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa.

Bowl, 1924-1930
Designed by Mary Yancey (American, 1902-1983)
Manufactured by Iowa College Pottery (Ames, Iowa, Iowa State College, 1920 – 1939)
In the permanent collection, Brunnier Art Museum, University Museums, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa.

Vase, 1910
Anna Francis Connor Simpson (American, 1880 - 1930)
Maude Robinson
Joseph Fortune Meyer (French - American, 1848 - 1931)
Manufactured by Newcomb College Pottery (New Orleans, Louisiana 1895 - 1940)
Purchased by University Museums. Funded by Carol Pletcher and the Neva M. Petersen Acquisition Endowment Fund. In the permanent collection, Farm House Museum, University Museums, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa.

Bowl, 2008
Ingrid Lilligren (American, b. 1949)
Gift of Rae Reilly. In the permanent collection, Brunnier Art Museum, University Museums, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa.

Ceramics practice demands patient, tolerant experimentation.  Indeed, in some ways it is a uniquely experimental medium: one shapes earths whose composition is not always fully known; applies glazes, many of which behave with reliable unpredictability; and fires the whole, often repeatedly, with only partial control over what happens in the extreme heat of the kiln.  The ceramicist not only accepts but embraces failure as a valuable source of information.  “Without the errors,” philosopher Daniel Dennett has written, “the trials wouldn’t accomplish anything.”  For the ceramicist, failure constitutes another way of building her stores of knowledge about her craft. 

Such stores, over time, become vast.  Recognition of the value of failure gives the ceramicist a kind of equanimity when faced with it.  Ingrid Lilligren has spoken of entire years when her experiments with glaze chemistry yielded little concrete success, but a wealth of increased understanding.  More recently she has exhibited ceramics that, in their embrace of experiment, push the very limits of her technology: forms created by 3D printers but then left unfired, their shapes softening and dissolving in contact with water, simultaneously high-tech and elementally earthen.  Vivika and Otto Heino operated as a team, co-signing all their works regardless of which of them had actually worked on a particular piece.  They were particularly recognized for their experimentation with and mastery of glazes.  They spent over a decade in pursuit of a glaze in a specific shade of yellow, Otto finally achieving the desired result only after Vivika’s death.  Mary Yancey produced this bowl here at Iowa State, while working as a ceramics engineering instructor and a principal Iowa College Pottery designer.  The wide range of forms and imagery displayed by the pottery in the University Museums collections attest to her experimental spirit and her command of her craft.

-Dr. Emily Morgan

Newcomb College opened in New Orleans in 1886 and was the first women’s coordinate college in the United States, existing within Tulane University. The Newcomb Pottery opened at the school in 1894 and was an important training ground for many young women artists, who learned how to design and decorate American art pottery while attending the college. Although the women were not allowed to throw the pottery, they developed the vessel forms and decorative motifs, of which there were many as each was a unique handcrafted work of art using local clays and the nature of Louisiana as inspiration. Many women were then hired by the pottery and other art potteries throughout the country after they finished their studies. Mary Yancey was one of those students and was hired by Iowa State from Newcomb to both teach and design the pottery being made by the Iowa State College Pottery.

-Adrienne Gennett

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