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    Jean Elton through the Decades: The 70’s

    Their journey with clay began in Lawton, Oklahoma, in 1973, where Lois and Bill fell in love with pottery.  They learned there was to be a class at the military rec center on pouring molds by an instructor who had an MFA in pottery.  Upon arriving at the rec center, however, they were disappointed to learn the class was not on pouring molds, but on using the potter’s wheel.  But Providence intervened because their whole lives changed that night.  They loved working on the wheel and they spent many nights and every weekend at that rec center to learn more.  While Bill continued working on the wheel, Lois began hand-building slab teapots.  Looking back now, she says, “They were hysterical!”

    In 1974, they moved to Heilbronn, Germany.  They had a small wheel installed in their kitchen, so they could continue what was then only a hobby.

    lois at wheel

    They also had a small updraft kiln on their balcony, which they had shipped from the States.  The kiln used two propane tanks, located on the ground below.  The tanks were intended for home heating, but when they were used for firing a kiln (which used the gas at a much faster rate), the tanks would freeze over, even in warm weather.  Bill would have to jump over the balcony to keep switching which propane tank the kiln was connected to, in order to keep the other tank from freezing.

    The pictures below show some of their work while in Germany.

    Photo on 2010-01-07 at 17.00 #3

    Photo on 2010-01-07 at 17.00 #5

    Photo on 2010-01-07 at 17.01 #2

    Photo on 2010-01-07 at 17.01 #3

    Photo on 2010-01-07 at 17.01 #4

    Finally, in 1977, they returned to Lawton, Oklahoma where Jean Elton Studio was born.  ”Jean” for Lois’s middle name, and “Elton” for Bill’s.  The Studio was their first child, an intermingling of their ideas and creativity, and of course, their mutual love of pottery.  They displayed their work in a small gallery in Lawton, as well as the “Quadrangle”, a gallery in Dallas (see photos below).  Lois remembers that at one point, there was a break-in at the gallery in Lawton.  The only items stolen were a painting and a piece of her pottery.  ”That was kind of flattering!” she says now.  The thief had good taste!

    Photo on 2010-01-07 at 17.11

    Photo on 2010-01-07 at 17.11 #2

    Photo on 2010-01-07 at 17.10

    Photo on 2010-01-07 at 17.10 #5

    Photo on 2010-01-07 at 17.10 #4

    Photo on 2010-01-07 at 17.10 #2

    In 1978, they moved to Quechee, New Hampshire and Jean Elton had a gallery on Main Street.  They shared the gallery with a well-known painter and selected which paintings would appear in their gallery from her home.  While there, they also selected several photographs taken by the painter’s husband.  Years later, he was featured as one of the “Seven New Prominent Artists in New England” at the Hopkins Center for the Arts.  He credited Jean Elton Studio and Gallery with his discovery.

    Then in 1979, they moved to Hanover, New Hampshire.  They made friends with the Margolises, who allowed them to use their basement as a pottery studio.  Around that time, Lois began feeling insecure about her artistry.  People wondered to her how she could be so feminine and delicate, yet create these large primitive pieces.  Dr. Margolis noticed Lois’s insecurity and told her the story, “From the Journal of a Leper”, written by John Updike.  He was trying to tell her that what people saw of her was not actually what she was on the inside.

    As you can see from the photographs below, they still have many of the pieces they made from Germany, Oklahoma, and New Hampshire.  If you are familiar with their work from today, you can see the similarities and the differences.  They have learned a lot over the years, but the pieces sitting in their kitchen today remind them from where they have come.

    photo 2

    photo 5

    photo 3

    photo 2

    Keep checking back for a continuation of Jean Elton through the Decades: The 80’s!

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    2 Responses to “Jean Elton through the Decades: The 70’s”

    1. [...] This is an addendum to our last post, Jean Elton through the Decades: The 70’s. [...]

    2. [...] When we last left them, it was 1979 and Bill and Lois of Jean Elton Studio had moved to Hanover, New Hampshire.  Bill was studying for his MBA and Lois continued her pottery. [...]