Cowan Pottery Centennial Celebration

There’s a lot to be celebrated in the American art pottery sector these days. The Cowan Pottery Museum is currently celebrating the 100th anniversary of the founding of this well known and beloved art pottery company. It began this spring and will run through the fall of 2013.

As Cowan Pottery fans know, this American art pottery opened in 1912 and was originally located in Lakewood, Ohio. It mainly produced architectural tiles, but also made a line of vases and bowls called “Lakewood Ware”. This continued until World War I when Mr. Cowan closed his studio so that he could serve in the Army.

Upon his return from war in 1920, he made the decision to move the studio so that he could focus on more commercial designs, which wasn’t uncommon during this period following the war. He employed students from the Cleveland Institute of Art and soon, he was back to the more creative side of American art pottery.

Cowan Pottery was soon gaining recognition and collection awards and eventually, he went international and sold to several retailers in Canada. And just as many companies focused on practical matters following the war, Cowan Party and the rest of the nation began focusing on what would become of their homes, businesses and lives now that they’d been hit by the Depression. By December 1931, the pottery had closed. Fortunately, we’re left with those same original buildings and in fact, one is a museum that houses many of Cowan Pottery pieces. One line includes Victor Schreckengost’s line of Jazz Bowls, which were originally created for Eleanor Roosevelt and can be seen in Cleveland’s Museum of Art.

Naturally, the centennial celebration is an important part of the region’s history.

Among the many celebrations, fans can enjoy events hosted by CPMA, the Cowan Pottery Museum and other regional Arts and Historical organizations. Rest assured – there are many.

August and September brings the opportunity for an art study group in cooperation with the Cleveland Museum of Art and Ingalls Library. The dates run through the end of September and coincide with the special exhibit, “Youth & Beauty: The Art of the American 1920s”.

Also, if you’re going to be in the area on September 9, you might wish to consider the Lakewood House Tour, where you’ll get to see things the public is rarely given access to.

There are also film festivals and other historical events that will coincide with the celebration. Visit the Cleveland Museum of Art’s website for more information on any of the events and exhibit as a whole. Other websites include www.lakewoodhistory.org and http://www.clevelandart.org. You’ll be able to access all of the events from either of these sites.

Cowan Pottery

Cowan Pottery was in business for a brief period of time; specifically, between 1912 and 1931. That’s not to say, however, that this Ohio art pottery company didn’t leave a lasting impression – it most certainly did.

Founded by R. Guy Cowan, an Ohio native, Cowan Pottery began as a tiny studio with only a few kilns and with Cowan serving as the owner, artist, designer, bookkeeper and so on. Despite what was surely an exhausting effort, Cowan produced many art pottery pieces and tile designs. By 1917, Cowan was enjoying the fruits of his hard work with many awards for his art pottery collections.

As was the case with many art pottery companies during this time period, World War I meant a closing of his business so that he could serve in the Chemical Warfare Service. The war ended and Cowan found himself following his passions once again, this time in a new location in Ohio. He upped the equipment, created a studio and before long, he was filling orders for department stores, individuals and other national chains. That was soon followed with commercial pottery efforts. He was able to hire a staff of artists and his output neared 175,000 pieces each year. Some of those Cowan Pottery pieces included bowls, vases, lamps and candlesticks.

Despite his impressive successes, in the late 1920s, Cowan found his business struggling financially. The demand was slowly dropping for pottery, as would-be customers found themselves struggling from a financial aspect, too. Indeed, times were incredibly difficult and by 1930, the writing was on the proverbial wall. The Depression hit fast and hard and Cowan Pottery closed its doors in December, 1931.

The legacy left behind is priceless. The glazes and artistic abilities are nothing short of genius; partly due to Cowan’s familiarity with the chemicals used in the American art pottery sector.

Cowan knew he could never walk away from art pottery and became a well respected judge and trustee for the National Ceramic Exhibitions until his death in 1957.