I arrived in Helena with Gail and the boys. If I remember correctly Benny was an infant. I was supposed to be on a quick run to the Rock Hand Hardware Store but guiltily I stopped at a thrift store on the way. I did a quick run through the hardware area. I never buy clothes, well, hardly ever. I walked down one of the isles with pots and turned them over to see if any were made with clay bodies (compositions) from before the 70’s. One ugly little cup with a funky dead form, coil handle, poorly turned footring and bubbled glaze, that was rubbed down with a brick to break the bubbles, was old stoneware. It did not have the typical APGreen brand fireclay look. It was ugly so I set it down.
By the time I got to the end of the isle I was thinking again of the ugly pot. “Whose signature was that?” I went back and turned it over again. Clearly it was signed, “Voulkos” (right).
Peter Voulkos is one of the best known clayers of the 20th century. He made delightful functional pots until he began making abstract sculpture. He began studying pottery at Montana State University in Bozeman under Francis Senska and was a resident artist at the Archie Bray Brickyard. After Berard Leach, Shoji Hamada and Soetsu Yanagi lectured and demonstrated at the Bray (not sure of this it could have been before) the resident artists at the Bray were asked to make “Bray Standard Ware” (I need a source for this). One of the items was a small cup with a little coil handle just like this one. Voulkos, I think, resented having to make these, but made them. In defiance, (again conjecture) he signed his cups.
(Yanagi, Leach, Rudy Autio, Voulkos, Hamada, at the Bray Pottery)
Cup in hand, poker-faced, I paid my 25 cents and left with my cup.
A few months later at the same store I bought a cup by Rosie Wynkoop (left) who had been one of my students in the community classes at the Bray. It cost a dollar. I think she made it while she was one of my students.
In graduate school one of the off syllabus things we learned was that garage sale and thrift store shopping was a competitive sport. The price tags were left on the pots. One friend was so well known at one thrift store that she received phone calls on the store phone.
On occassion, I invite my students over to my house to view pots. One time while talking about these two drinking vessels a student asked, “Wouldn’t Rosie be upset to find out that her work only cost a dollar?” I answered, “No! She is getting four times the price of Voulkos!”