received his higher education at the Art Institute of Chicago, graduating
in 1927. He was then an educator before he was a businessman, serving as
a professor in the Ceramic Art Department at the University of Oklahoma
after his move there from Chicago in about 1927. While there, he became
exposed to the high quality local clays through his interaction with geology
professors at the university and with private companies they consulted.
Frank saw the potential here in creating fine art pottery, and in 1933
he established the Frank Potteries in Norman, Oklahoma with his wife Grace
Lee. His first steps into business were small ones, operating with only
a small kiln and while retaining his professorship at the university. As
the company became more successful, John Frank finally resigned his position
with the University of Oklahoma and decided to rename the company Frankoma,
an aggregation of his own name with that of his new state Oklahoma suggested
by his wife Grace.
His vision for the company was to position
it as a manufacturer of high quality, distinctive ceramics reflective of
the American west, but affordable enough for the general population. The
years leading up to World War II were successful ones for Frankoma Pottery,
and in 1939 they expanded the operations and relocated from Norman to Sapulpa,
a small town near Tulsa. Frankoma pottery designs showed the clear influences
of native American Indian arts and crafts. Only local Oklahoma clays were
used in the production of Frankoma pottery, most specifically a unique
red clay that through its use gave Frankoma pottery a unique look of older
terra cotta. This base colorations of sand, green, and shades of tan made
possible through the Oklahoma red clays were coupled with ever more experimentation
in glazes, making Frankoma works highly desirable in the marketplace. Frankoma
ceramics have always retained a base flair consistent with the American
southwest, the midwestern prairie, and the native cultures and spirit which
came with the territory. Their southwestern styled dinnerware first produced
in the early years of World War II was made in vivid colors new to the
general population; colors included "White Sand", "Onyx Black", "Desert
Gold", and "Prairie Green".
Frankoma Pottery made
a wide variety of wares including limited collector editions
and "theme" production of holidays, politics, religion, and
American history. Production pieces included plates, mugs, candlesticks,
plaques, trivets, pitchers, and salt & pepper shakers, all
in the distinctive Frankoma colors and glazes. John Frank and
his family were active in religious life, helping churches,
charities, and other individuals and organizations in time of
need. While John Frank died in 1973, his daughter Joniece took
over as President of the company. Frankoma Pottery is still
in business today, still making rugged and beautiful ceramics
with a western flair for both display and everyday use.
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