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Maija Grotell: Works Which Grow from Belief

Jeff Schlanger and Toshiko Takaezu.
Studio Potter, Goffstown NH, 1996.
$30, paperback.

Born in Finland in 1899, Maija Grotell was one of the pioneers in 20th century studio pottery. For many years she taught at Cranbrook Academy of Art in Michigan, influencing several generations of students through her work and teaching.

She came to America in 1927 because, as she said, in Finland "there was only one teaching position...in the country."

She taught in New York City while making and selling her own work.

In 1938 she joined a distinguished faculty at Cranbrook that included, among others, the architect Eliel Saarinen. The work she produced there won innumerable awards and was bought for many museum collections.

Her commitment to her work was absolute. She said, "I worked 'round the clock...I felt very fortunate to be able to work all night...."

This slim, beautifully printed book grew out of an interview, a conversation really, the authors had with Maija in May of 1968 in conjunction with a major exhibit of her work. Their interview tapes were transcribed and donated to American Craft Research.

The text is primarily the edited tapes of Maija speaking of her life, her work, her beliefs and principles. She talks about her students. She tells funny stories on herself. She describes teaching herself to throw large pots, and teaching herself glaze chemistry, developing her own glazes and colors through the many hundreds of tests she made.

Her words bring her vividly to life. Without having ever met her I can hear her voice: "I always have something I am aiming at, and I keep on. ...if I have one that I like, that has come to what I was aiming at, then it has no interest any more....

"I was never afraid. I went anywhere. I felt, 'I can beat you.'"

If you are familiar with Maija Grotell's work, you will want this book for her voice and the pots that she talks of. If you have not encountered her work before, you will want this book to meet her for yourself, to hear and learn from her conversation and her work.

Reviewed by Jean Silverman. Studio Potter Network Newsletter, Autumn 1996.

reviews:   Books | Videos |

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