Upbringing and Education
Mid-century American ceramicist Claude Conover was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 1907. He received his education at the Cleveland Art Institute and then settled in Cleveland, Ohio for the remainder of his life.
Pottery as a Pastime
For the first 30 years of Conover’s career, he was a commercial graphic designer. In his spare time, Conover began to make pottery in a studio behind his home. Before long, he gravitated to working with stoneware in an earth-tone palette. During his initial phase, Conover created animals, bowls, and lamps. Eventually, he found the form for which he would become famous: large rounded vases that evoke the clay creations of antiquity.
Everyday Passion for Ceramics
At age 55, Conover quit his day job to pursue pottery on a full-time basis and dedicated himself to a seven-day routine. On Mondays, he rolled slabs of clay and shaped them into vessels. Tuesdays involved evaluating the forms, further shaping, and adding necks. On Wednesdays, Conover completed the shaping process by hand, without a pottery wheel. He started decorating his pieces on Thursdays with a sawtooth blade and scratched stripes or small, prehistoric-looking scripts onto them. Over the weekend, Conover completed decorative work, including painting, so that he could begin the process anew the following Monday. In this determined way, Conover generated around 250 works of pottery per year, some of which remained in the Cleveland area, but the vast majority were sold to collectors elsewhere.
The Cleveland School and Posthumous Demand
With Conover’s rising reputation, he became a prominent member of The Cleveland School, a group of artists active in various mediums who, from 1910 to 1960, helped found the Cleveland School of Art (now Cleveland Institute of Art), the Cleveland Society of Arts, and the Cleveland Museum of Art. During Conover’s time as a ceramicist, his pottery was shown in exhibits across America and abroad. Since his passing in 1994, appreciation for Conover’s oeuvre has continued to grow. Today his vases and other forms are part of the collections of the Cleveland Museum of Art, the Columbus Gallery of Fine Art, the Museum of Contemporary Crafts in New York City, and many other institutions. Likewise, demand for Conover’s hand-shaped clay forms has increased among collectors, with examples regularly achieving impressive prices at auction and via private sale.Contact a Specialist View all Artists/Makers