Sunday, February 12, 2012

52 Weeks of Abundant Genealogy: Ceramic Heirlooms

Zebra sculpture by Marian McClure Wood, 1950
My late mother-in-law, Marian Jane McClure Wood, became interested in ceramic sculpture as a hobby in the late 1940s. She took classes at Oxford Elementary School in Cleveland Heights, Ohio, with a well-known ceramicist, Edris Eckhardt.

Edris lived on Monticello Blvd, around the corner from the Cleveland Heights Blvd home where Marian and her family (Edgar J. Wood plus 3 children) lived. Edris was an internationally famous artist whose Alice in Wonderland sculptures had been displayed at the 1937 World's Fair in Paris and who had been a leader in Cleveland's Depression-era Federal Arts Project. She was deeply involved in the local art community and the Oxford school was one focus.

Marian quickly became so interested in ceramics that her husband Edgar and her father (Brice Larimer McClure) built her a kiln in the basement of Marian & Edgar's home, and arranged special electrical wiring for it.

Duck sculpture by Marian MccClure Wood (undated)
 Rather than make the usual ashtrays, Marian studied a book on animal anatomy and made ceramic animals. Hubby and I proudly display two zebra sculptures and a duck sculpture that she made. Marian also created a lovely series of ceramic creche figures, which my sis-in-law puts on display every Christmas.

Like all Cleveland-area artists, Marian aspired to have her works shown in the Cleveland Museum of Art's prestigious May Show. I found out when I checked the museum's database that she succeeded with four works: In 1948, she showed a zebra sculpture; in 1949, she showed "Spring Night" and a zebra; in 1950, she showed "The Champ." (Her son, my bro-in-law, had a painting in the 1960 May show; her daughter, my sis-in-law, had a textile design in the 1959 show.)

Inscription inside zebra sculpture - "1950 M Wood"
Marian's peak achievement was a three-foot-high Alice in Wonderland sculpture that she had fired in a commercial kiln and donated to the Oxford Elementary School in Cleveland Heights, in the late 1950s. This school houses an excellent collection of Federal Art, much of it produced under the supervision of or using the processes of Edris Eckhardt. Perhaps Marian's Alice is still there today?

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