University Museums

Iowa College Pottery

BROWSE Iowa College Pottery
The history of art pottery at Iowa State began in 1920 with the hiring of Paul Cox (American, 1879-1968) as acting head of the Ceramic Engineering Department. Cox has previously spent eight years at Newcomb College in New Orleans as technical director of Newcomb Pottery. Cox eventually became the official head of ISU’s Ceramic Engineering Department in 1926. Initially Cox’s attention was focused on clearing and preparing the laboratories and work spaces, as well as securing new equipment. The then began traveling throughout Iowa as part of an extension program designed to educate the public about the area of ceramics and its importance to industry and home decoration. Because of Cox’s influence, the modeling of clay and the production of art pottery began to receive equal attention with the technical aspects of ceramics. The Ceramic Engineering Department slowly gained popularity among students and faculty. Under Cox’s direction the student branch of the American Ceramic Society became involved with VEISHEA (the annual student celebration) and its traditions. The students prepared floats for the parade and also made hundreds of ceramic souvenirs to be sold or given away to campus visitors. One such souvenir, a ceramic tile featuring the iconic Campanile involved then sculptor-in-residence Christian Petersen, and can be seen in this exhibition. In 1924 Cox hired Newcomb graduate Mary Lanier Yancey (American, 1902-1983) as an instructor in the Ceramic Engineering Department. Her position had two priorities: teaching pottery design and creating pottery for exhibiting throughout the state. Yancey’s Arts and Crafts style pottery was sold and the resulting funds were returned to the department to assist in funding its operations. Most of Yancey’s students were women majoring in Home Economics. The male students in the department worked the clay and prepared it for shaping. The women formed pots by hand or by using a kickwheel. The pots were then glazed and fired and taken home to admire. Art pottery production at Iowa State ended in 1930 with both Cox and Yancey leaving the department. The “art” aspect of the Ceramic Engineering Department at Iowa State was terminated in 1939 when the emphasis went entirely to engineering and technical matters.