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Susan Frackelton

Susan S. Frackelton, 1901

WHI 8857

Susan S. Frackelton (1848-1932) of Milwaukee began her artistic career as a landscape and china painter, like many women artists in the late 1800s. But for Frackelton, this was just the beginning. She soon became a major contributor to the arts in America as a businesswoman, inventor, author, and artist. She transformed her love of decorating china into a prolific business and began throwing her own pieces. Frackelton eventually developed her own style of art pottery featuring distinctive blue and gray designs on stoneware.

The Frackelton pieces displayed in this online exhibit are from the Wisconsin Historical Society's collections. They are an important part of the Society's larger collection of ceramic art.

A Woman of Many Talents

Susan Frackelton began decorating ceramics in the 1870s as she worked in her family's crockery import business. She became well known for her 1885 instructional manual for china painting, "Tried by Fire". A year later she patented a special kiln designed for use in the home. Frackelton's own pieces, exhibited throughout the United States and internationally, received numerous awards and accolades.

Later, she started to throw her own pottery and experimented with salt glazes, coatings produced by throwing table salt into the hot kiln. At the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago, Frackelton earned several medals for her salt glaze stoneware.

Frackelton Blue and Grey

By 1894 Frackelton had shifted away from the painting and glazing of manufactured ceramics and had begun to create "art pottery," ornamental pottery conceived and fabricated as works of art. She experimented with a variety of forms, decorations, techniques, and motifs and threw many, but not all, of her pieces herself. She specialized in gray glazes and painted blue designs under the glaze, a style that became known as "Frackelton Blue and Grey." Her notoriety continued to grow at international expositions, most notably in Paris (1900) and Buffalo (1901). Frackelton's greatest contribution in art pottery was her diverse, almost experimental, painted and applied exterior treatments, which incorporated a number of naturalistic and geometric patterns.