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.
Biographical / Historical:
Michael Cohen (1936-) is a ceramist from Amherst, Massachusetts. Gerry Williams (1926-) is the editor of Studio Potter from Goffstown, New Hampshire.
Originally recorded on 2 sound cassettes. Reformatted in 2010 as 4 digital wav files. Duration is 2 hr.; 6 min.
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.
For more information on how to access this interview contact Reference Services.
Manuscripts, correspondence, business records, newspaper clippings and scrapbooks documenting the career of Henry Grattan Tyrrell, an early-twentieth-century civil engineer and bridge builder who was also a prolific self-published author of hundreds of journal articles and several books. Subjects include aesthetic bridge design, history of bridges, design of movable bridges, and the economical design of factories, shops, and mill buildings.
Scope and Contents:
This collection contains typed manuscripts, correspondence, drawings, and business records written by and relating to Henry Grattan Tyrrell, civil engineer, bridge builder and prolific self-published author on the subjects of bridge engineering, aesthetics and history of bridge design, and the economical design of factories, shops and mill buildings.
The bulk of the collection consists of drafts and submission copies of his numerous published journal articles as well as early manuscripts of several of his books. Also included are two scrapbooks compiled by Tyrrell, containing many of his published articles, pamphlets, and letters to editors of engineering-related publications, as well as advertising material for both his engineering businesses and his books. There are many newspaper clippings related to projects Tyrrell worked on or expressed interest in, documentation of claims he brought against various companies for infringement or failure to pay, lists of his works, compilations of critical praise and personal endorsements, and general material relating to his experiences in publishing.
The collection presents a specific view of the trends and innovations in engineering at the beginning of the twentieth century, particularly focusing on bridges of all types and materials, as well as an early example of self-employment and self-promotion. It may be of interest to researchers in the areas of bridge and factory design in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, historical engineering publications, and the history of bridge building in the United States and Canada.
This collection is divided into seven (7) series:
Series 1: Personal, 1886; 1920s-1930s; undated
Series 2: Correspondence, 1895-1901; 1907; 1911-1917; 1928-1929; 1931-1941
Henry Grattan Tyrrell (1867-1948) was born in Weston, Ontario, Canada and was educated at the University of Toronto School of Practical Science as a civil engineer specializing in bridge architecture and design. He worked for several architectural companies, including the Boston Bridge Company (Massachusetts), the Brackett Bridge Company (Ohio), as well as his own businesses the American Estimating Company, and Grattan Tyrrell & Co. His brief career as an engineer was superceded by his prolific career as a writer of both journal articles and books on the aesthetics of bridge design and practical designs for factories and mill houses.
The son of an avid outdoorsman and explorer, his early writings are about the Canadian wilderness. By the turn of the century, his writing focused on architectural engineering, specifically the design of bridges. Tyrrell was well-traveled and wrote at length about the beauty of a well-designed bridge, like those he had seen all over the world. He suggested that America's cities (Chicago, Seattle, Milwaukee and Cleveland), build attractive bridges, which, he argued, could also be economical. His books History of Bridge Engineering (1911) and Artistic Bridge Design (1912) spoke to these issues. He expanded his love of aesthetics to buildings as well, advocating for the economical and practical design of factory buildings and floors, as well as mill houses and shops (Mill Buildings, 1911; Engineering of Shops and Factories, 1912). His last (possibly unpublished) book, Movable Bridges (1921), explored the design of drawbridges, vertical lift bridges and suspension bridges. His wife, Mary Maude Knox Tyrrell, co-authored and illustrated many of the books.
Tyrrell was an avid self-promoter, writing reviews of his own books, including contents and endorsements of his achievements, and selling them in pamphlet form. He was a frequent contributor to many engineering journals, such as Canadian Engineer, Builders' Magazine, Engineering News, and The Engineering Magazine. His prolific writings on the subjects of bridge engineering and aesthetics are a lasting legacy of early-twentieth century ingenuity.
Collection donated by Grattan Tyrrell. Exact date of acquisition unknown.
Collection is open for research.
Collection items available for reproduction, but the Archives Center makes no guarantees concerning copyright restrictions. Other intellectual property rights may apply. Archives Center cost-recovery and use fees may apply when requesting reproductions.