Oral history interview with Michael Cohen, 2001 August 11
Cohen, Michael, 1936-
Williams, Gerald, 1926-
Glick, John Parker
Merritt, Francis Sumner
Haystack Mountain School of Crafts
Massachusetts College of Art
Cranbrook Academy of Art
Nanette L. Laitman Documentation Project for Craft and Decorative Arts in America
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Transcript: 37 pages
Originally recorded on 2 sound cassettes. Reformatted in 2010 as 4 digital wav files. Duration is 2 hr.; 6 min.
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An interview of Michael Cohen conducted 2001 August 11, by Gerry Williams, for the Archives of American Art's Nanette L. Laitman Documentation Project for Craft and Decorative Arts in America, at his home, in Pelham, Massachusetts.
Cohen speaks of his childhood, living outside of Boston, Massachusetts; his first adventures in art; attending Mass Art; his attraction to clay; his mentors; his first job with Bill Wyman; joining the Army; his travels; his unhappy experience at Cranbrook Academy of Art; his first studio in his mother's basement; enjoying his first summer at Haystack Mountain School of Crafts and the other schools of craft; how his pottery is meant to be functional; his fear of dying at 59 and the great sculptural work he did in that year; exhibition shows and how they have changed over the course of his career; why he's moved to primarily making tiles; apprenticeship and the benefits of paying your apprentices; how expensive being in the pottery business has become; various teaching and workshop experiences; local pottery guilds he is a part of; the creation and design of his studio space; technological advances in the field and the distinctive tools he loves to use; specialized periodicals that he reads or looks at; what makes a pot beautiful; limitations in clay; commissions and the lack of benefits involved with commissions; the permanent collections of museums that he is a part of; how he thinks he will be remembered; his most memorable exhibitions; where he gets his ideas from; social and political issues he's involved in and how he does not include them in his work; the craft organizations; curators he's enjoyed working with; his ex-wife Harriet Goodwin and how their collaboration was important to his work. Cohen also recalls Francis Merritt, Bernard Leach, Peter Voulkos, Ron Burke, John Glick, Bob Sedestrom, and others.
Quotes and excerpts must be cited as follows: Oral history interview with Michael Cohen, 2001 August 11. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
Funding for this interview was provided by the Nanette L. Laitman Documentation Project for Craft and Decorative Arts in America. Funding for the digital preservation of this interview was provided by a grant from the Save America's Treasures Program of the National Park Service.
Michael Cohen (1936-) is a ceramist from Amherst, Massachusetts. Gerry Williams (1926-) is the editor of Studio Potter from Goffstown, New Hampshire.
This interview is part of the Archives of American Art Oral History Program, started in 1958 to document the history of the visual arts in the United States, primarily through interviews with artists, historians, dealers, critics and administrators.
Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, 750 9th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20001