Kenneth Richard Ferguson (1928 – 2004) was an American ceramist. Ken Ferguson is best known for his stoneware incorporating sculptures of hares, such as Vessel with Hares in the collection of the Honolulu Museum of Art. He was born and raised in Elmwood, Indiana, by two industrious manufacturing laborers who urged him to pursue an education and quit industrial life.
Kenneth Richard Ferguson was born in the small Indiana town of Elwood in 1928. A Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in painting from the Carnegie Institute of Technology was earned in 1952, and a Masters of Fine Arts degree in ceramics from the New York State College of Ceramics at Alfred University was earned in 1958. He lived in New York City.
Ken Ferguson’s Career
He served in the army with the First Calvary at Camp Sendai, Japan, and then went on to the New York State School of Ceramics in Alfred, New York, to study under the GI Bill, earning a master’s degree in fine arts in 1958.
Archie Bray Foundation for the Ceramic Arts
He worked as the director of the Archie Bray Foundation for the Ceramic Arts in Helena, Montana, from 1958 until 1964. From 1958 to 1964, he directed the Archie Bray Foundation for the Ceramic Arts in Helena, Mont., and then taught and chaired the ceramics department at KCAI for the next 32 years.
Ferguson continued to produce at a high level while working at the Archie Bray foundation after graduating from Alfred, and he began experimenting with new elements of decoration and form while at the foundation at his shop.
After participating in a summer workshop with Toshiko Takaezu at Bray, he expanded his palette of glazes and began drawing and sketching on the surface of his platters for the first time. After being exposed to new work by Peter Voulkos, he began to reflect on his relationship to functioning, as well as what other possibilities could exist.
While still adhering to functionalism when he left the Bray in 1964 to take a position at the Kansas City Art Institute, he was striving for a looser, less controlled approach to his profession.
Kansas City Art Institute
In 1964, Ferguson was appointed Head of the Ceramics Department at the Kansas City Art Institute, a position that he held until 1996. Chris Gustin, Richard T. Notkin, Akio Takamori, and Kurt Weiser were among the students who studied under him.
It was during his 32-year tenure as the head of the ceramics department at the Kansas City Art Institute that Ferguson made some of his most significant contributions to the ceramics movement in America.
He discovered that he was well suited to the teaching profession and that students responded positively to his passion and excitement.
Before his retirement time in 1996, he had transformed the Kansas City Art Institute into a hub for ceramic art and had given birth to an entire generation of young ceramic artists from a variety of backgrounds.
This was also the period in which he developed and honed his unique style of working. His early years at the Institute were difficult for him because he was dealing with large volumes of clay that caused him to lose control of his shapes on sometimes while throwing. By the 1970s, he had mastered the ability to work more slowly and methodically, and his forms had begun to loosen as a consequence.
In the early 1980s, he created the first of his Slump Jars, finally achieving the loose, tactile ease of form that he had been searching for years. The following decade saw him engage in new investigations of form and glazing, adding the first hares into his work and perfecting the scumbled, fractured surfaces that had become his trademark.
He was a prolific developer of ceramic art and a leader in ceramic education and organizations in the United States and overseas. In the realm of ceramics, he left a lasting legacy. The following are a few recollections from industry insiders who knew Ken well.
Ken Ferguson’s Style
Ferguson is most known for his stoneware with hare sculptures, such as Vessel with Hares in the Honolulu Museum of Art’s collection.
Ken began his pottery career as a completely practical potter. In this new generation of art, his work is still anchored in usefulness, but his platters and teapots have grown into wholly different beings than they were years ago and in which he has sold many and turned out to be a good business.
Thick plates are decorated with expressive lines, and color, while jars collapse and stretch, melting out of their utilitarian past and into a new dimension. Teapot handles rise energetically upward.
Ferguson’s investigation of figurative themes is a perfect complement to these dynamic shapes and forms. Hares weave their way through the handles of baskets, foxes perch on the lids of jars, and mermaids sway across the surfaces of plates and serving platters.
As he creates his work, Ferguson freely pulls inspiration from the forms and motifs of potters throughout history, allowing the ceramic heritage to enhance and enrich a body of work that is entirely his own.
Ken Ferguson’s Legacy
On December 30, 2004, he passed away at his residence in Shawnee, Kansas.
Museums And Collections
- The Brooklyn Museum
- The Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh
- Charles A. Wustum Museum of Fine Arts
- Everson Museum of Art
- Henry Art Gallery
- Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA)
- MacNider Art Museum
- Museum of Arts and Design
- Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art
- Newark Museum
- Saint Louis Art Museum
- Canton Museum of Art
- Victoria and Albert Museum
- Honolulu Museum of Art
- Charles H. MacNider Museum, Mason City, Iowa
- Newark Museum, Newark, New Jersey
- 1999 Frank Lloyd Gallery, Santa Monica
- 1998 Dolphin Gallery, Kansas City, Missouri
- 1997 Frank Lloyd Gallery, Los Angeles
- 1996 Garth Clark Gallery, New York
- 1995 Ken Ferguson, Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Missouri, Garth Clark Gallery, New York, Garth Clark Gallery, Kansas City, Missouri, The Clay Place, Pittsburgh
- 1994 Garth Clark Gallery, New York
- 1993 Garth Clark Gallery, Los Angeles
- 1992 Garth Clark Gallery, New York
- 1991 Garth Clark Gallery, Kansas City, Missouri
- 1990 Garth Clark Gallery, Los Angeles
- 1989 Garth Clark Gallery, Kansas City, Missouri
- 1988 Garth Clark Gallery, New York, Manchester Craftsmen Guild, Pittsburgh
- 1987 Garth Clark Gallery, New York
- 1986 Garth Clark Gallery, Los Angeles
- 1985 Morgan Gallery, Kansas City, Missouri
- 1984 Southwest Craft Center, San Antonio, Garth Clark Gallery, New York
- 1983 Garth Clark Gallery, Los Angeles
- 1982 Hadler / Rodriguez Gallery, New York, Morgan Gallery, Kansas City, Missouri
- 1980 Okun-Thomas Gallery, St. Louis, Missouri
- 1979 William Rockhill Nelson Gallery, Kansas City, Missouri
- 1975 Lodestone Gallery, Boulder, Colorado
- 1974 Morgan Gallery, Shawnee Mission, Kansas
- 1970 William Rockhill Nelson Gallery, Kansas City, Missouri
- 1962 New York State College of Ceramics, Alfred University, Alfred, New York
Underglaze – It is a type of pottery decorating technique in which painted design is put to a pottery’s surface before it is covered with a transparent ceramic glaze and fired in a kiln.
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Ken Ferguson (Modern Ceramic Artist)