Peter Voulkos

More travellers’ tales

My consultancy work took me to San Francisco last week to attend a workshop on the use of technology in arts and humanities research. While there, I visited the De Young Museum and stumbled across the Dorothy and George Saxe collection of contemporary craft. The Saxes are a San Francisco couple who, looking for something to do in 1980 after their children had left home,  decided to amass the best collection possible of contemporary glass; then extended their collecting interests to ceramics, wood, fibre and metal (1).

Amongst the ceramics on display were several pieces by Peter Voulkos (1924-2002). Back home, looking for  information about Voulkos, I found a website devoted to documenting his work in the form of a catalogue raisonné.  This type of scholarship is unusual in the crafts but Voulkos has an iconic status in the history of American ceramics and his large-scale, sculptural works bridge the divide between art and craft. [In Australia, his work may have influenced ceramic sculptors like Peter Travis, Bernard Sahm, Joan Campbell and Marea Gazzard to look beyond the Anglo-Oriental tradition (2).]

The Voulkos website has a “Quest” section that includes information about known works and seeks help to identify the whereabouts of works that have been lost.  The catalogue raisonné is being published as it grows, and the reach of the quest extends to anyone looking for information about Voulkos on the Internet. This resonated with the theme of the workshop I had just attended, where we had been exploring not only how to make things easier to do through the use of technology, but also how to do things that could not have been done before.


  1. Janet Silver Ghent, “Crafting a better marriage: South Bay couple revels in transformative power of art“, The Jewish News Weekly of Northern California, 26 October, 2007.

  2. Frances Morgan, “The 60s“, Pottery in Australia, Issue 40 #3 Sept 2001.