Fellowship in Clay
Philadelphia’s American Craft Council Fellows
The Clay Studio
The Clay Studio was formed in the mid-1970s when the city of Philadelphia was experiencing a renaissance of craft production as a result of newly formed craft-specific galleries and the robust academic programs at area schools such as Tyler School of Art, Philadelphia College of Art (now University of the Arts), Moore College of Art, and the Philadelphia College of Textiles & Science (now Philadelphia University). These programs formed a fertile ground to nurture a strong craft art community of teaching artists, students and graduates who made Philadelphia their home. In the 1960s craft specific galleries such as Helen Drutt Gallery, Snyderman Works Gallery and the Richard Kagan Gallery were established and contributed to the growing Contemporary Craft Movement in Philadelphia.
Rudolf Staffel is best known for his groundbreaking work with unglazed porcelain and is often credited with inspiring the wider use of porcelain among studio potters. He called the vessels Light Gatherers, a title that highlights Staffel’s interest in light as a primary artistic subject. The exploration of methods to manipulate and display light drove his artistic journey. It was this dedication to light that led him to work with porcelain in a new way, opening the possibilities of the material to all those who would come after him. As gallery owner and scholar Garth Clark noted, “One cannot reference porcelain in the history of American ceramic art without taking into account Staffel’s contribution as the master of the white medium in its purest artistic form.”1
William Daley is a quintessential artist exemplar of the Contemporary Studio Craft Movement. His experiences reflect the influences of World War II, the rise of university art programs, and the drive to combine tradition, meaning and new technology. The movement was forged out of World War II; Daley served, was shot down and held in a German prisoner of war camp. The first wave of the Movement saw hundreds of new teaching positions created in university craft, art and design programs across the country; Daley spent four decades teaching in a combination of these programs, including industrial design, drawing and ceramics. A common characteristic of the Movement has been a focus on combining traditional crafts, modern art concepts and new techniques; Daley is a master of forming clay skillfully, infusing his forms with meaning and developing new techniques to achieve his vision.
Known for her hand-built porcelain forms, Paula Winokur (b. 1935, Philadelphia, PA) references her strong interest in geological forms such as cliffs, ledges, crevices and canyons. More importantly her work suggests the passage of time and its effect on these types of formations, whether caused by water, wind, earthquakes or other natural phenomena. Her choice of porcelain echoes the subject matter of her forms. Winokur states, “I have chosen to work with this clay because it has allowed me to explore issues in the landscape without necessarily making literal interpretations. It can be minimal and sometimes surreal in its starkness.”1
Robert Winokur (b. 1933, Brooklyn, NY) has spent his fiftynine-year career engaged in the pursuit of form. Introduced to ceramics by his mother as a young boy, he took up sculpture and pottery under the tutelage of Rudolf Staffel at Temple University in Philadelphia. He received a bachelor of fine arts degree in 1956 from Temple’s Tyler School of Art, where he majored in sculpture and ceramics. Subsequently, he obtained a master of fine arts degree in ceramics from the New York State College of Ceramics at Alfred University in 1958.
While realizing the possibilities of his own form of artistic expression Winokur helped several generations of students explore theirs, teaching at Tyler School of Art at the invitation of Staffel, from 1966 until his retirement in 2005. He and his wife, Paula Winokur, a ceramist in her own right, maintain a home, studios, kilns and a gallery in Horsham, Pennsylvania.
—Elisabeth R. Agro