Professional-personal biography.
Three international artists' correspondence.
Rich photographic and written journal by the Fairbanks, potter and painter.


recently to
Victoria and Albert Museum, London
November, 2014.

The Arabia Group

These stoneware ceramics were produced in the early 1960's by Richard Fairbanks and Kyllikki Salmenhaara in their independent Arabia factory studios. Her famed "Flying Saucer" vase and tallest pitcher are surrounded by his four-handled vase and lidded beverage servers.

“We would be delighted to receive the five pieces of Richard Fairbanks and Kyllikki Salmenhaara as gifts for the V&A’s collection. My thanks again for your generous offer to donate these works, which together will form an important and extremely welcome addition to the collection.”
With grateful thanks, Alun Graves. Senior Curator,Victoria and Albert Museum,
London, September 23, 2013/​October 31, 2014

Richard researching in London, 1970's.


URN 1954 stoneware, C/5-6 oxidation, thrown body and lid, slab formed handles, dark green glaze over white slip, 23 x 7 x 5 in.
VASE 1967 stoneware, C/9 reduction, thrown body, white slip application, celedon glaze, 9 x 6 in.

October 7, 2014
“Thank you very much for your generous gift of Richard Fairbanks’ Vase and Urn to the Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian American Art Museum. We are delighted to give a permanent home to two iconic works from Richard’s early career. The quality of Vase and the majestic green Urn underscores why his work is critical to interpreting the history of Northwestern ceramics, and why Richard’s talent remains relevant to audiences today.”
Elizabeth Broun, Director Smithsonian American Art Museum,October 7, 2014

introducing RICHARD FAIRBANKS, potter/​professor

By remaining within a strict and narrow area of studio practice (handmade functional pottery),
Richard Fairbanks attained the heights of artistic expression
and plumbed the depths of international cultural references.
His oeuvre, here carefully chronicled, proves that great variety
and beauty may be achieved within the humblest and most time-honored forms:
a cup, a pitcher, a plate, a bowl.

Once his body of work is closely examined,
it becomes clear that Fairbanks is among the most important,
if not the most important, potter in the history of the Pacific Northwest.

Richard Fairbanks, American Potter 1993 Matthew Kangas, author, University of Washington Press

Assistant Professor of Art Richard Fairbanks Drake University, Des Moines, Iowa 1956-1963

Photographs of ceramics by Roger Schrieber and Phillip Amdal.

SERVER 1985 stoneware, C/​9 reduction,
thrown body with thrown "spool" handles,
red brown glaze isolating "islands" around iron-rich mineral sand in clay body,
5 x 13 x 10 1/​2 in.
American Craft Museum

PLATE 1962 stoneware, C/​12-14,
thrown and incised, Fairbanks copper/​barium blue glaze on front,
underside brushed with iron oxide stain, 1 1/​2 x 12 in. diameter
Renwick Gallery, National Museum of American Art
Smithsonian Institution

BOWL 1975 stoneware, C/​9 reduction,
thrown with carved rim band, tessha tea dust glaze,
19 x 7 1/​2 x 10 1/​4 in. diameter
Renwick Gallery, National Museum of American Art
Smithsonian Institution

PLATE 1972 stoneware, C/​9 reduction,
wheel thrown, unglazed rim and base with
multi-colored bands of red, blue and brown glazes, 20 in. diameter.
American Craft Museum

stoneware, C/​9-14 reduction, and trimmed,
multiple matt glazes, tallest: 12 x 4 1/​2 inches,
produced at Arabia,
Museum of Applied Arts
Helsinki, Finland

BOWL 1975 stoneware, C/​9 reduction,
thrown, thick white underglaze with iron oxide brushwork and magnesia matt glaze,
underside brushed with iron oxide stain, "marimekko" motif, 5 1/​2 x 13 in. diameter
Museum of Applied Arts
Helsinki, Finland

COVERED JAR 1960 stoneware, C/​14 reduction,
chamotte clay, thrown body and lid with recessed handle,
gray-green matt glaze, 7 1/​2 x 8 in. diameter Produced at Arabia
Museum of Applied Arts
Helsinki, Finland

TUREEN 1975 stoneware,
C/​9 reduction, thrown body and lid with stroked applied handles,
celadon glaze 10 1/​2 x 10 1/​2 in. diameter
American Craft Museum

"CHECKERWORK PLATE" 1970 stoneware,
C/​9 reduction, thrown, white slip with over glaze washes of brown and tan matt glazes
2 x 14 in. diameter
Tacoma Art Museum
Tacoma, Washington

COVERED JAR 1980 stoneware,
C/​9 reduction, thrown body and lid, 1/​10% cobalt matt glaze,
9 x 7 in. diameter
International Museum of Ceramic Art
Alfred University, Alfred, New York

PITCHER 1962 stoneware,
C/​9 reduction, thrown and altered,
Fairbanks matt yellow glaze with chrome filings,
underside brushed with iron oxide stain, 8 x 4 inches
Tacoma Art Museum
Tacoma, Washington

BOTTLE 1967 stoneware,
C/​9 reduction, thrown, iron oxide brush strokes under black gloss glaze
9 1/​2 x 5 in. diameter
Mills College Art Gallery
Oakland, California

"EFFIGY VESSELS"1972 stoneware,
C/​9 reduction, thrown body and lid, pulled and stroked beaks and horns,
iron satuate "gun Metal" glaze, largest 24 x 11 inches
Museum of Applied Arts
Helsinki, Finland

Over the years I have gone to hundreds of studios, seen work and apprised various situations. Never have I experienced such a situation as you presented me with last Friday. The range and amount of pieces show Richard Fairbanks as a fine artist technically and creatively. He was a man of his time but like all true artists pushed at the boundaries of his time to bring us to the present. The pieces as a body act above any one artist’s work I’ve seen as a collection that is almost encyclopedic of contemporary ceramics executed in the last forty years. Yet with the tributes paid by Richard to other’s work and styles each piece is decidedly his own.

Cale Kinne, Director, Foster/​White Gallery, Seattle, Washington September 9, 1992

Summer in Ellensburg selecting work for a California exhibit, 1970's

introducing RICHARD FAIRBANKS, the educator

Professor of Art, Central Washington University, Ellensburg, Washington 1963-1989

Richard's students were the beneficiaries of inquiry around the world, endless creative trials, critical analysis, and creative inspiration intended to be expressed in his own artistry, but always to be shared and understood.

It was never sufficient to create a magnificent glaze on a beautifully crafted piece. It was essential that he could conceptualize, describe, and discuss this with other artists and, most especially, his students.

The legacy of Richard Fairbanks is shared with us in his pottery and in the work and understanding of his students. Together they form a treasure of accomplishments few achieve.

Donald L. Garrity, President Emeritus of Central Washington University 1989

Mid-1960's Central Washington University ceramic studio.

HEART PLATE 1984 stoneware, C/9 reduction, wheel thrown body, multi brown, blue and tan matt glazes with white slip-trailed decoration, 12 1/2 inch diameter Collection of Mrs. Richard Fairbanks

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