Oct 18, 2011

PROFILE|The Mad Potter of Biloxi

The Mad Potter of Biloxi
George E. Ohr’s better known as the (mad potter of Biloxi) is a potter who's works have been shared with many people through half a century. Frank Gehry an architect liked Ohr’s work so much he decided to build a museum for Ohr’s work to be shared. Ohr was born on 1857 in Biloxi. Growing up he considered himself to be “a mischievous oddball who was, as he once put it, always in “‘hot aqua”’. He dropped out of school fairly young and went straight into the family business, and started working as an assistant to his father in his blacksmith shop. It wasn't too long after that when a friend invited 22 year old Ohr to go to New Orleans to learn to be a potter. 
“Some are born eccentric, some achieve eccentricity and some, including certain rock stars and artists, have it thrust upon them. Evidence suggests that Ohr’s “madness” was a mix of all three.” Bruce Watson

Dark Colored Flower Shaped Vase
Ohr’s pots were beautiful, weird, complex designs that were really something to look at. The museum that is being built for him is going to be only for his work, where it can really shine. During 1895 - 1905 Ohr production was said to be a fast pace. In museums and in private collections every Ohr pot is dated to this period of time. He had thousands of mind blowing pots from pitchers with wide open mouths to thrown multi tiered vases, to symmetrical forms made from bowls. After seeing them you couldn't argue that they are fabulous.

Green Symmetrical Handled Vase

At the age of 29 in 1886 he married 17 year old Josephine Gehring and shortly after had two children Asa and Ella both of which died in infancy. After that his wife popped out eight more their names were Leo, Clo, Lio, Oto, Flo,Zio, Ojo, and Geo.
Some critics said Ohr’s “deliberately distorted” works displayed an utter lack “of good proportion, of grace, and of dignity.” When praise did come, it was more for his colors (which Ohr considered an accident enhanced by fire) than for his shapes.” -Bruce Watson
Free Flowing Yellow Pot
A half -century after Orh’s death James Carpenter and his wife were asked by Ohr’s son Ojo if they would like to see his fathers pottery. When Ojo revealed his fathers life works, the couple was amazed because they were looking at the “amazing collection in the history of ceramics”. Carpenter offered Ojo 15,000 which was almost 2 dollars a pot. Ojo said noway and counter offered with 50,000 but by the time Carpenter said he would take it Ojo raised it to 1.5 million and finally after three more years of negotiating they settled on a price said to be closer to the 50,000.  Famous artist Jasper Johns and Andy Warhol were just few out of many that purchased Orh’s pottery. Today some of the pots are worth anywhere from 20,000-60,000 each. Back 1900 he had a hard time even selling one pot for a  low price.
“Today, Ohr is hailed as a “clay prophet” and “the Picasso of art pottery.” His resurrection proves that madness, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder".   -Bruce Watson
Ohr's life story and beautiful works of art bring me inspiration, being a young potter myself and majoring in ceramics I find Ohr's work breath taking and very much moving. Everything from design to the powerful glaze technique. The free flowing yet very controlled and perfectness to his pieces is what is so amazing and makes his pieces more enjoyable. For more information and full story visit the Smithsonian website.
The Great Potter of Biloxi

-Ana Sandoval

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