Frank Plettenberg

1928-2003

 

My first ceramics teacher was Frank Plettenberg, at Central High School, in Phoenix, Arizona. By allowing me to join his ceramics class in the second semester (Jan. 1974), without having been there for the first one of the preceding fall, he allowed me to discover my own life's work.

I'll never forget my first visit into his classroom, in the Fall of 1973. There was a whole table of pots which had just been unloaded from the kiln. One particular little covered dish called out to me, and I took the lid off. Inside was a galaxy of glazes streaming down the sides, and into the bottom. That one little pot hooked me in for life. I later purchased it at the Student Art Sale from fellow student Jim Jarvis, and still have it.

Although I did very well in most of my other classes at Central High, nothing grabbed my attention and excitement the way that first visit to Mr. Plettenberg's classroom did. I wanted so much to join in the magic making that was going on in there.

Mr. Plettenberg said that if I'd stay after school a few days to do some catch-up, he'd consider allowing me in when January came around. He took the time to show me how to use the classroom equipment, and where everything was, and how it worked. I remember him showing me how to use the triple beam balance scale to mix glazes, and how intrigued I was that those beautiful glazes I saw actually came out of bags of ground up minerals and metals, which were dug from the earth.

The following semester was my last before graduation, and thus my only one in Mr. Plettenberg's ceramics class. I've always regretted that. I remember getting to know that wonderful smell of wet clay, which follows me to this day. I remember the mesmerizing effect of watching glazes melt through the opening in the top of the raku kiln, and then seeing the pots come out of the sawdust containers transformed to finished work. I remember the excitement of the other students, when they saw their pieces come out of the kiln, having had to wait until it was cool enough to unload. And I remember the photos, posters, and magazine pages on the walls of the room, showing inspiring pottery from all over the world, ancient past to modern present. That classroom embodied Plettenberg's passion and love for pottery making. It turned out to be pretty contagious.

Knowing that I wanted to continue on to college in the fall of 1974, and also knowing that I now had a passionate interest in a particular subject, ceramics, I asked Mr. Plettenberg where he might recommend I go. There seemed no question in his mind that the only logical choice for me was Glendale Community College (Glendale, AZ). Apparently there was a ceramics teacher there, by the name of Robert Lundeen, who was just returning from a 4 month sabbatical to Japan, where he had been traveling and studying Japanese ceramics. I had no idea at the time how serendipitous and fortunate my timing had been in enrolling as an art major at Glendale Community College that fall.

 

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This Page Was Last Updated on December 02, 2016