September 24, 2009

George Ohr, Potter

Long necked vase, 1897-1900, 13 inches high

Crinkle top pot, 1897-1900, 7 5/8 inches high

Red vase, 1895-96, 9 1/16 inches high

Organic Vessel, 1897-1900, 4 inches high, 6 inches wide

I first saw George Ohr's work a number of years ago at the American Craft Museum, now the relocated and renamed Museum of Arts and Design. It was a stunning revelation; here was a uniquely individual artist, working away in Biloxi Mississippi, producing remarkably modern pieces at the end of the 19th century. His genius reminds me a bit of that of Frank Lloyd Wright whose early work made great aesthetic leaps into new forms.

Ohr created beautiful shapes, as in the long necked vase above, but he also took classic forms and pinched, crimped, rumpled them, making expressive volumes. His handles added fluid lines drawn in space. The glazes are gorgeous; I especially love the color of that long necked vase, the way the warm hues wander into the cooler ones and all seem to enhance the marvelous form: wide opening into slender neck, which was given a slight twist, then swooping outwards, and then back to the foot. The crinkle top pot has a similar rightness of color and form: the shiny green of the top sets off the more mat color of the body. The organic vessel is like an abstract sculpture; it's as though his work had to pave the way for John Chamberlain to bend and crumple metal.

Sometimes I've thought I'd like to try making pottery, as I've wanted to make low relief sculpture after falling in love with Ghiberti when I saw his panels at the Baptistry in Florence. As I've explained, seeing Italian panel paintings did get me to learn egg tempera. But I think I'll just admire, and visit the collection at the Metropolitan Museum often. I imagine we all wonder how we are influenced or jiggled a bit one way or the other by work that is not truly related to what we do; there must be some non-visible effect, swaying us as the moon moves the tides.

The photos above come from the book George Ohr, Art Potter: The Apostle of Individuality by Robert Ellison.


  1. These are really quite incredible.

  2. Such fluidity, first one seemed more like a piece of glass than clay, but if glass is sand and sand is related to clay....higher firing...ummm....yes, we are constantly being influenced. Sometimes i am overwhelmed with influence and I want to empty myself with breath before I make that first stroke but even that is influenced....

  3. If you like these check out my website and look for geo pots.

    Brian Mielke

  4. It's all sooooooooo Kathy Butterly. I'm mad for theseee

    1. I think it's that Kathy Butterly is so George Ohr. He's a giant of modern ceramics.

    2. Yes, that's what I meant!!!! No disrespect to Mr. Ohr!!!! XO

  5. The Sibert Honor was recently awarded for children's book "The Mad Potter: George E. Ohr, Eccentric Genius" by Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan...check it out. Now the kids know...!