A Celebration of All Things Cultural, Artistic, and Entertaining in Madison
Aug 24, 2010
03:35 PM



In the early 1990s, a group of friends came together with the common interest of learning about, buying and selling art pottery. This group became the Wisconsin Pottery Association, and it soon began holding annual pottery shows.

The 15th Annual Wisconsin Pottery Association Show & Sale takes place on Saturday, with more than fifty dealers selling vintage and contemporary pottery, plus furniture and decorative art items. With the show quickly approaching, I posed a few questions to Wisconsin Pottery Association secretary Heidi Hahlen.

What do these shows entail? And is anything new planned for this year’s show?

The WPA Annual Show & Sale features both an exhibit for the education of the attendees as well as forty to fifty pottery and antique dealers from all over the U.S.A. selling a wide range of pottery, including but not limited to vases, figurines, plaques, tiles, dinnerware; something for the serious collector or the novice or the new attendee. Every year, a different style (Arts & Crafts, Art Deco, etc.) or type (Roseville, Illinois, Ohio, etc.) of pottery is featured in the exhibit, with this year’s being a display of Wisconsin Pottery from 1930 to 2010.

Each year, we also offer an expert identification service for attendees who are looking for answers about the maker, history and value of their piece of pottery. This has been a highly appreciated service because many antique pottery pieces were not marked and uncommon pieces are exactly that, maybe only mentioned or pictured in a book or sales catalog. While the web provides a vast amount of information previously not available to the average person, the hands-on experience of our WPA members offer insight not easily found on the web.

I understand this year’s show will feature pottery made from 1930 to 2010. What sorts of works can visitors expect to see?

I think [webmaster] Tim Zinkgraf said it best on the WPA website:

From the ’30s you will see some of the works from the Pittsville Pottery of Pittsville. From the ’40s you will see some work from William Chancey from Wales or Frederick Carlton. From the ’50s you will see some works from the Betty Harrington and the Madison-based Ceramic Arts Studio and Century House also of Madison, Wolfgang Geisler from Sheboygan or Abe Cohen from Milwaukee and Door County.

The ’60s was the rebirth of the art pottery with the works of Paul Donhauser from Oshkosh, Eckels Pottery of Bayfield and Edward Friday of Madison. The ’70s has the works of Karl Borgeson of Whitewater, Randy Johnston of River Falls and Shake Rag Alley Pottery of Mineral Point. The ’80s brought Bear Pottery from Highland, Joan Kirkland from Madison and Jan McKeachie-Johnston of River Falls.

The last twenty years has been a boom in studio art production with the Bill Kaufmann and Cynthia Mosedale from Hudson and their Linden Hills Pottery, Kyle Kreigh of LaFarge, Michael Macone of Shell Lake, Mark and Gaea Skudlarek and their Cambridge Wood Fired Pottery of Cambridge, John Wrenn of Cottage Grove, Ephraim Faience Pottery originally from Deerfield and now Lake Mills, Eric Olson of Common Ground Pottery of Madison, Rick Foris of Amherst Junction and Rick Hinze of Johnson Creek. This is by no means a complete list, so expect to see more.

What have been some of the most important trends or accomplishments in Wisconsin pottery over the past eighty years?

Pottery of today, whether it is produced in Wisconsin or not, is more decorative rather than functional or utilitarian. Certainly there are stoneware companies that are still making dinnerware and bake ware (The Bennington Company, Pampered Chef) but clearly glass, plastic, aluminum and stainless steel have replaced much of the kitchenware, household and garden wares that were once the mainstay of potters.

What sorts of pottery do Wisconsin collectors tend to like?

There is not one make of pottery that Wisconsinites collect, though in the 1940s and ’50s, many folks collected the Madison Ceramic Arts Studio figurines, produced in small building on Blount Street, because they were attractive, in great abundance and very affordable to the average person. Along the same line, Century House Pottery was produced in and sold from an old stone building on University Avenue from 1948 to 1963. The Century House pottery was custom-made, with plates and ashtrays the mainstay of the studio, as well as wedding, birthday, family tree and specialty plates that were often a loved and cherished gift.

Currently, there are some outstanding studio potters in Wisconsin, with several producing their wares just outside of Madison. The skill, technique and dedication of these potters is amazing; they are producing the collectible pottery for the next generations.

I think people would tell you that they collect what touches their heart and mind, from a childhood interest such as marbles and toy trains to dolls and books, to the hand-me-down collections from their parents, to the collection of pottery, regardless of who made it, because it attracts or affects something in you.

Why would you recommend a person attend a pottery show or start looking at pottery?

With so much of our decorative arts being imported from other countries today, the WPA Exhibit and show and sale will give attendees an opportunity to see a wide variety of quality pottery pieces that were and/or are being made right in Wisconsin or other pottery centers in the USA—and to talk to potters and pottery dealers who are knowledgeable about them.

The 15th Annual Wisconsin Pottery Association Show & Sale takes place August 28, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., at Alliant Energy Center. For more information, including ticket and parking information, visit wisconsinpottery.org.

Photo courtesy of the Wisconsin Pottery Association.

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About This Blog

As managing editor at Madison Magazine, I'm also an unabashed arts enthusiast. Paintings, plays, music, movies—I'm intrigued by all forms of creative expression. I enjoy talking with artists and sharing their insights, challenges, inspirations and latest endeavors. Check in regularly for details on events, previews and reviews, artist interviews and more! 

– Katie Vaughn
Follow Katie on Twitter @katiemv

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