With clay, John Frank captured the essence of Oklahoma, producing state-inspired dinnerware sets and trinkets that would gain nationwide recognition for his company, Frankoma Pottery.
Now, in tribute to Frank and his work, the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art presents Oklahoma Clay: Frankoma Pottery. The exhibition began April 20 and runs through Sept. 16.
In 1927, as a recent graduate from the Art Institute of Chicago, Frank was hired to establish a ceramics program at the University of Oklahoma.
After doing so, he searched with the Oklahoma Geological Survey for clay sustainable enough to use in his pottery business.
A type of clay found in Ada proved to be the most workable. When that supply ran out, Frank used a red clay found on Sugar Loaf Hill in Sapulpa, which Frankoma used until its close. It was auctioned last summer.
Frankoma Pottery produced several dinnerware sets and used a variety of glazes to decorate them. With names like Verde Bronze, Patina, Prairie Green and Desert Gold, Frank’s color choices for his glazes were symbolic of the Southwest and the Great Plains. The most iconic of the company’s dinnerware sets is Wagon Wheel.
Ultimately, his vision for the company was to design contemporary items that were appropriate for the home, but would capture attention.
Products from the Frankoma line on exhibit include dinnerware pieces, vases, candleholders and small sculptures of cats and horses. Some of Frank’s personal works, submitted from private donors, can be seen as well.
“This exhibition will show a side of him to collectors that they’ve possibly never seen,” said Jane Aebersold, the museum’s curator of ceramics.
Oklahoma Clay boasts unique pieces, such as a plate Frank created that bears signatures from cast members of the original Broadway musical tour of Oklahoma!
“Stylistically speaking, this is a lovely show for anyone with an interest in ceramics,” said Aebersold. “His works represent a piece of Oklahoma’s culture.”