Cowan Pottery styles range from Arts and Crafts to Art Deco, and draw from sources in mythology, literature, religion, nature, and daily life. Unique shapes and colorful glazes are hallmarks of Cowan Pottery, which is known both for its utility and its beauty. Collection highlights on display at the Cowan Pottery Museum include unique and limited edition ceramic sculptures. Also on view are equally beautiful production items for everyday life such as vases, bookends, bowls, candlesticks, figures, lamp bases, flower frog figures, and a famous punch bowl by Viktor Schreckengost known as the Jazz Bowl.
About 40% of the collection is on view at any given time. Behind the scenes, the museum also includes a storage room and a modest archive containing some of R. Guy Cowan’s work notes, correspondence, and manuscripts. The Cowan Pottery Museum, established at Rocky River Public Library via a generous private bequest, opened its doors on February 26, 1978. Ever since then, it has housed the largest publicly-owned collection of Cowan Pottery in the world, and it is the only museum in the world devoted solely to the acquisition, preservation, and promotion of Cowan Pottery.
R. Guy Cowan was a ceramics engineer, designer, artist and educator. As founder and head of the Cowan Pottery Studio, he was responsible for more than 80% of the innovative designs produced. His associates included such prominent artists and designers as Elizabeth Andersen, Arthur E. Baggs, Alexander Blazys, Paul Bogatay, Edris Eckhardt, Waylande Gregory, Richard O. Hummel, A. Drexler Jacobson, Raoul Josset, Paul Manship, José Martin, F. Luis Mora, Elmer L. Novotny, Margaret Postgate, Guy Rixford, Viktor Schreckengost, Elsa Vick Shaw, Walter Sinz, Frank N. Wilcox, and Thelma Frazier Winter. Many were students and/or faculty members at the Cleveland Institute of Art. Most had distinguished careers in other areas of artistic endeavors in addition to their work for the Cowan Pottery.
Cowan Pottery Centennial, 2012 - 2013
Throughout 2012 and 2013 we celebrated the centennial of Cowan Pottery, which had its beginnings in Lakewood, Ohio during 1912 and 1913. In 1920 the Cowan Pottery Studio moved to Rocky River, Ohio where it had its most successful and productive period until forced to close in December 1931 due to the effects of the Great Depression. 100 years after the founding of Cowan Pottery, Cowan pieces are still avidly collected and admired throughout the art and antiques worlds. The legacy of founder R. Guy Cowan and his brilliant team of artists and designers lives on at the Cowan Pottery Museum at Rocky River Public Library. To properly mark the centennial of this distinctive form of American art pottery, the Museum, the Associates, and other arts and history groups in the greater Cleveland community collaborated to sponsor a series of events during 2012 and 2013. The highlight of these events was the Cowan Display Room Open House on the old Cowan property on Lake Road in Rocky River. Hundreds of people attended this event on August 4, 2013. Click here to see a news article about this event. Click here to see the two-year schedule of events and the impressive array of institutional partners. The Cowan Centennial was meant to be a community celebration that raised awareness of Cowan Pottery and its place in Greater Cleveland’s cultural history. By all accounts this goal was achieved.
For nearly 12 years the Cowan Pottery Museum at Rocky River Public Library has been privileged to enjoy the dedicated support of the Cowan Pottery Museum Associates (CPMA), an independent non-profit organization that is affiliated with the museum and library. The Associates’ website www.cowanpottery.org, contains detailed information and photos concerning Cowan Pottery, the artists, and Cowan Pottery marks. This website also contains membership information, an online store, news about events, information about the CPMA scholarship program, and links to other art pottery sites. Over the years the CPMA has contributed numerous pieces to the museum and held fundraisers to assist in its support.
To connect online with other Cowan and general pottery lovers, go to the following page on the Associates' website. After a simple registration process you can be a part of this forum and communicate about sales and auctions, identifying Cowan Pottery, Cowan & Cowan artists on eBay, Cowan history & information sources, Cowan Pottery Museum and Cowan Associates' events, and general news & discussion. In addition, Cowan is on Facebook! The Cowan Associates have established a Facebook page and you can find it by going to the general Facebook site and searching for "Cowan Pottery." The site, with a photo of the Egyptian Maidens, should come right up. Try it, you'll like it!
In addition, Rocky River Public Library‘s print and online sources contain a wealth of information about American art pottery (including Cowan), ceramics, collecting, and antiques. As Les Roberts’ famous detective, Milan Jacovich, learned in The Duke of Cleveland, Rocky River Public Library has a “state of the art collection of materials on ceramics and porcelain, the best in greater Cleveland (p. 166)!” Please click on the following link to find a selected list of print and online resources.
The Museum’s curator, Lauren Hansgen, as well as the library’s reference staff, is happy to assist you with questions about Cowan and its place in local history and the arts world in general. Contact the curator at 440-895-3763 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Contact the Reference Department either in person or by calling 440-333-7610 and then pressing “3.”
Tour the Cowan Pottery Museum -- Virtually!
Go to YouTube and search for "Cowan Pottery Tour," and you'll see 4 parts of a 45-minute tour filmed at the Museum last spring. Or, if you're at Rocky River Public Library where the Museum is located, you can use your Smart Phone or tablet to access this tour via QR codes found on 4 of the display cases in the Grand Reading Room. For more information click here.
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