Remembering: Robert Winokur

Remembering: Robert Winokur

The ceramics artist, educator, and American Craft Council fellow died May 28 at the age of 86.

Robert Winokur portrait

↑ ACC fellow Robert Winokur.
Photo: American Craft Council Library & Archives

 

We remember and honor ceramist, educator, and ACC fellow Robert Winokur, who died on May 28, 2020, at the age of 86.

Born in Brooklyn in 1933, Robert Winokur attended Tyler School of Art at Temple University, where he received his BFA in sculpture and ceramics in 1956. In 1958, he completed his MFA at Alfred University and also married his wife Paula, whom he met while attending Tyler. Robert and Paula opened a production pottery business called Cape Street Pottery in Ashfield, Massachusetts, in the early 1960s. In 1964, they moved to Denton, Texas, where Robert taught at North Texas State University before receiving an invitation from Rudolf Staffel to teach at Tyler School of Art in 1966. The Winokurs returned to the Philadelphia area, and Robert worked as a professor of ceramics at Tyler for the next 40 years, until retiring as professor emeritus in 2005. He and Paula maintained a shared studio and gallery for decades until her death in 2018.

Robert’s early work focused on functional pieces, and he was considered one of the pioneers of the salt glaze technique. After taking the teaching position at Tyler, he shifted to creating more sculptural pieces that retained a sense of function. He explored architectural forms as a type of vessel, and houses became a recurring symbol in his work: “A house is a unique kind of container, one that is imbued with a deep set of profound and multi-layered psychic associations,” he wrote in his artist statement. He took particular interest in the simplicity and innocence of children’s drawings, and his work was imbued with a sense of humor and wonder. “What I find truly compelling about these [children’s] works was their innocence, exuberance, and spontaneity.”

Robert was the recipient of numerous awards during his distinguished career. In 1983, he was named an honorary fellow of the National Council on Educators in the Ceramic Arts. He received a Fellowship in Crafts from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts in 1988 and again in 2003. He was inducted into the American Craft Council College of Fellows in 2002. In 2011 he was selected for an oral history interview for the Archives of American Art Oral History Program at the Smithsonian Institution. His work is held in collections around the globe, including the Fuller Craft Museum in Brockton, Massachusetts; The Hermitage State Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia; the Smithsonian Museum of American Art, Renwick Collection in Washington, D.C.; the Louvre in Paris; the Houston Museum of Fine Art; the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; the John Michael Kohler Art Center in Sheboygan, Wisconsin; and the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

A film interview of Robert Winokur by John Thornton was created in 2012 in conjunction with the exhibition “Creative Hand, Discerning Heart: Story, Symbol, Self” at the James A. Michener Art Museum in Doylestown, Pennsylvania.