I can't say exactly when my fascination with dishes began, but certainly it was nurtured in my grandmother's kitchen. Her large sunny kitchen was a dish lover's paradise. A wall of windows across the south shed brilliant light into the white room. The cabinets had those pretty glass knobs that looked like giant crystal beads. My curiosity centered on a wall with large sliding doors opening to stacks of dishes, glassware and her growing collection of salt and pepper shakers.
I was hooked. I could occasionally talk her out of something from the vast collection: A lonely pepper shaker missing its mate for salt, a tiny vase, a little green glass but never one of the dishes shaped like apples. I'm not sure anyone is ever cured of dish collecting until storage becomes an issue.
At grandmother Della's home, her china cabinet was the center of my attention. Its dark wood with glass on three sides held countless treasures. I thought that cabinet to be the most beautiful piece of furniture in the world.
Today that cabinet graces our dining room with far more than the dishes it holds. The memories of good times, great food and family come alive from that splendid old china cabinet and all the dishes it has held since it was purchased over 90 years ago.
It's easy to see why I couldn't resist heading to Norman to the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art to see the special exhibit of Frank
John Frank came to Oklahoma in 1927 as professor of ceramics after his graduation from the Art Institute of Chicago. After developing the pottery program at the University of Oklahoma, Frank resigned in 1936 to devote his full energy to developing a pottery business. It started as a home studio project called Frank Potteries. Frank's wife coined the name “Frankoma” using Frank's name fused with part of Oklahoma.
Just as John Frank had searched for Oklahoma clay to use in what would become iconic pottery, he began searching for a well-traveled place to locate his business. He decided on Sapulpa. Passing the time after his car overheated there, he had coffee in the St. James Hotel Coffee Shop. A conversation developed around a “Frankoma” water pitcher followed by a meeting with the president of the Sapulpa Chamber of Commerce.
The Route 66 location in Sapulpa proved to be ideal for the pottery business. Like most entrepreneurial enterprises in Oklahoma, Frankoma Pottery went through some tough times and setbacks over the years. Even though this unique pottery remains in the top 20 list of collectibles in the country the company would eventually play out after new owner's attempts to revive the once thriving business.
You can still find the pottery online at eBay, Amazon and Replacements Unlimited, offering a variety of pieces from wagon wheel plates to mugs and creamers. I didn't appreciate how much work and craftsmanship went into the designs created by the company until I worked with clay in several college courses at OSU. The beautifully crafted designs using clays from Oklahoma bring a great story of our very culture and pioneer spirit.
The exhibit runs until September at the museum on the campus of the University of Oklahoma in Norman. I loved this exhibit: It is surely something dish and art lovers as well as Oklahoma buffs will enjoy.