Mesas

Mesas
Claude Conover
1907-1994
Acquisition Number: 2012.19
Medium: Stoneware
Size: 10" x 16" x 16"
Date: c. 1960's

Credit: Gift of Brent Kee and Martha S. Young

Claude Conover was in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, but is identified with Cleveland, Ohio where he received his education and subsequently spent his career. Conover studied art at the Cleveland Institute of Art, majoring in portraiture. Upon graduation he pursued a career as a commercial designer for the next 30 years, working in advertising, typography and production. Conover worked during the day and at night taught himself pottery by working in a studio behind his house and at the age of 55 he left the commercial world and turned to pottery for his second career. This career in ceramics lasted for the rest of his life. His work is hand-built using clay bodies he mixed himself-primarily stoneware and usually monochromatic. In his early ceramic years he made ceramic animals that are now prized by collectors of his work, but it is the vase that has become his signature form. The shapes are monochromatic and classical in style – the surface decorations are geometrical and linear and the color palate primarily is earth tones. His coil technique and slab constructions are rounded and elongated pillow vases that have been described as …timeless monumentality reminiscent of ancient vessels whose utilitarian purpose is now lost to us. Conover developed a strict schedule that he adhered to in his ceramic career. Mondays were devoted to rolling slabs and making vessels which were left to dry overnight. Tuesdays he assessed the form and began adding necks and other pieces. Wednesdays he completed the shaping of the final form, always using hand-building techniques, not the wheel. On Thursday he began decorative work, scratching the surface with a saw tooth blade and covering the surface with scratching, striping, and hatching. These decorative elements often produced a prehistoric effect. Fridays were devoted to the finishing decorative work, with the entire process completed by Sunday so that he could start again on Monday. As a result, he produced nearly 250 pots a year – over 3500 in the course of his ceramic career. The pieces were given Mayan names rather than numbers, and because of his prolific production, he used the same list of names over and over. Conover was also a member of “The Cleveland School” a group of artists and craftsmen in Northeast Ohio that joined together with other art supporters to found the Cleveland Academy of Art. The focus of the group was to found an art school, build an art museum, give exhibitions, publish an art magazine, and encourage support of the arts in the schools and community. From 1910 to 1960 the group flourished and achieved many of their goals.