...or tries to...

Friday, June 17, 2011

Collections: Frankoma

I didn't want to post on collections two times in a row, but I just learned last week that Frankoma Pottery is officially no more. Founded in 1933 by potter John Frank, its name came from the combination of his last name and his state of Oklahoma, the source of the clay he used. And I think it's the combination of elements that I love so much.  Frankoma can be anything you want, in a way. It can be craft, or kitsch, or both. It can celebrate nature or deco or a cowboy boot. It can be moss green or carnival red or calamine lotion pink. It can be gorgeous or absolutely awful.

And it's been something I could collect now, instead of that elusive Someday (after I win Powerball). Which I do not play.

And I can use it. It holds things. It's not just for show.

It was kind of comforting to know that it was still being made, out there in Oklahoma. That there were still molds for Congressional mugs and Lazy Bones butter dishes and Wagon Wheel pitchers. But now that Frankoma is finite, it might be even more special when I walk through a flea market and know that somewhere, somewhere here there's a little green vase with the price tag stuck on with scotch tape, and it's patiently waiting for me.

John and Grace Lee Frank's wonderfully funky home here...


Sans! said...

Amy, what a collection! Must have been over some time? And their home! Why is it no more? Retirement?

I collect clay pottery too and I use them for dinner, tea, flowers, yes, even earrings :). I have started collecting them, not brand or maker centric, just anything that catches my eye since 20 over years ago. I think their beauty is perennial :).

Amy said...

I agree completely Sans. When they speak to you, they speak to you, like all wonderful things that aren't about their value to the rest of the world. And the point is to use them, make them part of every day life-they pick up an almost psychic glow, don't they? I have a set of plates and mugs that I used all the time. (I've been collecting for about ten years-I promised to stop because I was running out of room. But a few still sneak in...)

The Franks both passed away, and their daughter ran the company for a while, almost 20 years, I'm pretty sure. Then she had to sell the company and it passed through different hands, like it does so often when it's not a family thing anymore.

Joe R said...

As the most recent owner, I can say that it no longer exists simply because people weren't willing to pay for hand crafted American products. It's easier (and far cheaper) to buy your dinnerware in a big box store who imported it by truckloads from China. There's just no way to sell enough to keep a factory running solely for the tiny number of people who will pay $80 for a place setting - and even at that price I was losing money.

However, there may still be a future for Frankoma in a different form. Probably no dinnerware, but keep your eyes open.

Amy said...

Hello Joe!
Thank you so much for reading and leaving a comment! My first set of dinnerware for my first apartment was from a giant box store, but dinner never looked nearly as good as it did when I finally managed a set of Frankoma dishes. I'm grateful that you worked hard to keep the brand going, and I'm intrigued by the idea of future Frankoma.

Just now, as I sit in my studio, there are five pieces of Frankoma srrounding me, holding beads, holding flowers. It's a part of my every day, something useful that I love to pick up to look at, the perfect definition of craft.

Anonymous said...

Hello Amy, I ran across your site trying to research a piece of Frankoma. It is a small covered jar, no handle and no notch in the lid so not sure what its for. Its the Mayan Aztec pattern. My problem is, on the bottom it is marked Sharp with a half triangle like mark. Would this have been made for Sharp Cheese or maybe the designer of the piece?

Amy Gross said...

You know, I had never seen a mark like you described, but then I looked around and found this post:


So it's definitely a Frankoma mystery. Some of the people discussing it thought it may be a custom piece for a company, or for cheese, as you thought. My bet would be that it was made for a company of some kind, or there was a designer named Sharp. Maybe Allen Manuel, who runs the FrankomCollector.com site, would know. Let me know if you find out!