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new release

Richard Fairbanks potter/Professor
Dixie Parker-Fairbanks artist/writer
320 pages 80 photos

#1 new release in Museum Studies and Museology.

other related books

Richard Fairbanks, American Potter
Essential Passions, Fairbanks-Salmenhaara Letters
Silent Sunflowers, A Balkan Memoir
Vessels of the Heart
Heart of Shards

Richard Fairbanks, American Potter
Matthew Kangas, author

127 pages, including Fairbanks’ Helsinki journal,
explanatory notes by Professor Tapio Yli-Viikari,
selected bibliography and biography.

Softcover with 31 color and 97 black-and-white illustrations.
$35. including US S&H Washington State residents add 9.5% sales tax
(sorry, no international shipping)

University of Washington Press
ISBN: 0-295-97302-1

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Richard Fairbanks, American Potter

Ceramics Monthly review 2/94

Potter/teacher Richard Fairbanks (1929-1989) was “an important, yet overlooked artist,” who “dedicated himself to the improvement of handmade functional pottery and to his higher goal of raising such pottery to fine-art status on its own terms,” writes the author [Seatte critic Matthew Kangas] of this biography.

To explain the circumstances leading up to this dedication, he begins by providing sociological and educational context. “Fairbanks’ life was rooted in the paradox of post-World War II Europe and America, allied victors soon to be at odds with the Soviet Union. His two main teachers in the United States, Paul Bonifas (1893-1967) and Antonio Prieto (1911-1967), were of European heritage. His other influence, Kyllikki Salmenhaara (1915-1981), was also European and further reinforced the high ideals for pottery making the young Fairbanks had received as an undergraduate at the University of Washington in Seattle under Bonifas and as a graduate student at Mills College in Oakland, California, under Prieto.

After World War II, the dominant influence on American pottery came from, ironically, Japan through the visits of British potter Bernard Leach, his Zen philosopher colleague Soetsu Yanagi and Shoji Hamada. Although Asian ceramics were an inspiration in Fairbanks’ early development, his true sensibility gravitated toward and was shaped by European models: humanistic, design-oriented and modernist…In the process, he became an outsider; he withdrew from many of the professional organizations of the day but assiduously maintained ties through correspondence and travel with like-minded European and American colleagues.

“At first innocent and naïve, Fairbanks became urbane, sophisticated and articulate thanks to his teachers and successive European sojourns. Nevertheless, he retained an American pragmatism and love of nature rooted in the farmlands of central Washington State. Herein lay another contradiction: he was the most Europeanized of America-born functional potters of the 1950-1980 period, and yet he was the deliverer of American freshness and innovation to his European colleagues, especially the Finns.”

Fairbanks studying museum pottery, London 1970's

Essential Passions, Fairbanks-Salmenhaara Letters 1959-1986
The book is handsomely illustrated with photographs of pottery.
Softcover, 208 pp., 188 illus., 125 in color.
$40. including US S&H Washington State residents add 9.5% sales tax
(sorry, no international shipping)

University of Washington Press
ISBN 0-295-97832-5

Essential Passions, Fairbanks-Salmenhaara Letters 1959-1986

Dixie Parker-Fairbanks, author
Helen Abbott, editor

Introduction [excerpted]
Margaret Carney, Ph.D, Director
The International Museum of Ceramic Art
Alfred, New York.
"Essentials Passions" is a very personal account of the lives of American potter Richard Fairbanks and Finnish potter Kyllikki Salmenhaara as told through their correspondence and journals. It celebrates a friendship spanning nearly three decades, linking two remarkable potters who remained connected despite the oceans, miles, years, and cultures separating them. It was a love of clay, a passion for ceramics that bound Salmenhaara and Fairbanks together.

At first it seems remarkable that such a bond could remain between two people who spent, in reality, less than 500 days together during the twenty-two years they knew each other. But if one contemplates the contemporary ceramics world, even from one’s own narrow perspective–it is easy to recall how many instantaneous, lifelong friendships have been formed with “only” the common bond of clay. Ceramics seems to attract and bring out people’s passions–for clay. While "Essential Passions" vividly portrays the lives of both Richard Fairbanks and Kyllikki Salmenhaara, two prolific and gifted potters, it goes far beyond that boundary. What is revealed is that which is most attractive about ceramics–the intimate, long-term people connections formed by the sharing of a passionate love of clay.

Kyllikki Salmenhaara came to the U.S. in 1956 as part of the Foreign Leaders Program of the U.S. Department of State. She as recommended for the program as “at the moment perhaps the foremost name in Finnish ceramics.” Richard Fairbanks first studied in Finland in 1959 as a Fulbright scholar, where he met Salmenhaara as a guest artist at the Arabia Institution. The life and ceramics of each were forever enriched by their foreign studies and travel.

Richard Fairbanks with Kyllikki Salmenhaara, Ellensburg 1976

Silent Sunflowers, A Balkan Memoir
The Fairbanks's private travel journals serve as context
for Richard's stunnng photographs of folk art, remote villages,
comprehensive museum collections and fellow artist/craftsmen,
on Richard's final challenging research trip
throughout Eastern and Central Europe.
Soft cover, 8 1/2”x11” 250 pp, 268 color, 46 bw photos
$45. including US S&H Washington State residents add 9.5% sales tax
(sorry, no international shipping)

University of Washington Press
ISBN: 0-295-98045-1

Silent Sunflowers, A Balkan Memoir

Dixie Parker-Fairbanks, editor/author

Introduction excerpts
Zoltan Kramar, Ph.D.
Emeritus Professor of History, former Dean of Arts and Humanities
Central Washington University, Ellensburg, Washington

"Silent Sunflowers" is about Richard Fairbanks’ last exploration into the world of folk art. Accompanied by his wife, collaborator, and fellow artist, Dixie, he traveled through Central and Southeastern Europe investigating, on location, the patterns, processes, and techniques pre-industrial rural folk have used in the creation of their objects of daily use. They were particularly interested in studying the people’s uncanny ability to create objects in which utility and beauty seamlessly combine.

The detailed journals they kept and the thousands of slides they took quite naturally lent themselves to…the “written and visual account” of their trip. Reading these journals, as a Euro-American cultural historian, my first impression was that Richard and Dixie are the antitheses of the notorious “ugly American.” Having relatives in Hungary and Romania, I have all along been very much aware of the social, political, and economic conditions prevailing in these countries and their immediate neighbors at the time of their trip in 1986.

I was particularly aware of the economic insanity imposed upon Romania by the Ceausescus, and wondered how my friends would cope with it. In any event, there was no need to wonder. Living conditions are described with clinical objectivity, without complaints, and, above all, without egregious comparisons between local conditions and some ideal US standards. Obviously, their focus on their research and exploration was so strong and sustained that the mere non-existence of heated hotel rooms in November or lack of warm water or, for that matter, the lack of any kind of water, were temporary trifling inconveniences to be acknowledged and adjusted to. At the same time, the journals reflect their compassion for the local population to whom these “temporary inconveniences” have become a soul-deforming lifestyle. Richard and Dixie drew a careful distinction between their descriptions of material conditions which, in the three Balkan countries, were mainly negative and the people they encountered which, on the other hand, were overwhelmingly positive.

The journals, of course, can stand alone as both fascinating and valuable historical sources. But in the context of the present work they rather serve as commentary to the main substance of "Silent Sunflowers": to the slides.

It was through the artist’s eye of Richard and Dixie that I suddenly saw this fragmented, conflict-ridden area of Europe through the commonality of folk art. …what is most important to remember that the closer you get to the grass roots of these societies, the less important political categories get, the more to the forefront comes the features of folk expression that stress what is useful, what, at the same time, is pleasing to the eye, what, in the end, makes sound sense. Alas, here too, economic globalization is making rapid headway which means that in the long run, the future of carefully, proudly, hand-crafted folk art is pretty much doomed.

If, at least its memory should survive, it will do so because of the single-minded dedication–dedication to the point of self-sacrifice–of artist-scholars like Richard and Dixie Fairbanks, who painstakingly did their homework in the field, then put it all together into "Silent Sunflowers", a veritable cultural-visual feast for our delectation and enrichment.

Submitted for a Washington State Book Award
by the University Washington Press, distributor of all three softcover books.

Richard photographing pottery, Sofia, Bulgaria September 1985

Richard and Dixie Fairbanks selecting 169 ceramics for Central Washington University's 1980 Turn and Burn: European and American Folk Pottery professional leave exhibition.

VESSELS of the heart
fairbanks at Arabia
cushing and salmenhaara at Alfred

Thank you for this significant book.
I feel honored to be included with Richard and Kyllikki.
Now that I have come to know Richard...
I feel strongly that he and I would have been kind of soul mates.

Val Cushing September 30, 2009

Soft cover, 8 1/2 x 11, 178 pages, 41 full color

Richard Fairbanks American Potter Foundation

$35. including US S&H Washington State residents add 9.5% sales tax
(sorry, no international shipping)



E. Norman Westerberg, Honorary Consul of Finland,
Seattle, Washington
January, 2000
Your latest publication "Essential Passions" has adorned our living room table for several months. Friends and visitors to my office have admired the wonderful pictures of Kyllikki Salmenhaara, Richard Fairbanks and yourself, and photos from your travels in Finland and here. It must be a tremendous asset for art lovers and art historians. I thank you for putting your heart into this effort. I wish you well and worldwide readership.


Marianne Aav, Curator
National Applied Arts Museum,
Helsinki, Finland
September, 1999
Thank you for "Essential Passions". It looks gorgeous. You must be very happy after such an effort. Congratulations.


Kenneth R. Trapp, Curator-in Charge,
Smithsonian Renwick Gallery
National Museum of American Art
Washington, DC
January, 2000
"Essential Passions" and "Richard Fairbanks, American Potter" are handsome publications and of great interest to all who know American ceramics. ...a few of your late husband's ceramics are in the collection of the Smithsonian Art Museum. It is my hope that we can add to this small number–important pieces that chronicle your late husband's evolution as a ceramic designer and craftsman. I have asked that the Renwick Gallery Museum shop, as well as other shops in the Smithsonian Museum complex carry the books.


When I began to work with clay in the early 1960's your late husband's pottery was an inspiration. His ceramics always embodied strength, honesty, sincerity and excellent design. My basic design professor Mildred Fischer always used the ceramics of Richard Fairbanks as the model to aspire to and follow.


David Revere McFadden, Chief Curator
American Craft Museum, New York
December, 1999
...two impressive volumes on your husband's work ["Richard Fairbanks, American Potter" and "Essential Passions". I was delighted to see both, and enjoyed the insightful intimacy of the Fairbanks/Salmenhaara publication. Congratulations on creating such a moving testament to the work of the artists and to a special friendship.


David A. Cane, Managing Editor
Modernism Magazine, New Jersey
December, 1999
I would like to thank you for sending along the two beautiful books on your husband. I found the publications to be of great interest and was impressed by the breadth and the unique nature of your husband's work over the years.


Marilyn Symmes, Curator of Drawings and Prints
Deborah Shinn, Assistant Curator
Department of Applied Arts and Industrial Design
Smithsonian, Cooper-Hewitt
National Design Museum
Washington, DC
November, 1999
We are impressed by Richard Fairbank's important career in ceramics and we much admired the handsome books you sent. We wish you continued success in bringing Richard Fairbank's great work to the attention of an ever-increasing audience.


Paola Antonelli, Curator of Architecture and Design Museum of Modern Art
New York
October, 1999
Thank you for forwarding me a copy of "Essential Passions." I will send it on to our bookstore for their consideration, but would also like to suggest that you contact the following people, who I think would love the book and the work, and may be able to help make it public. I wish you all the best with your book. The stoneware heart plate [cover photograph] is one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen.


Jennifer Opie, Deputy Curator
Ceramics and Glass Museum
Victoria and Albert
October, 1999
I must congratulate you on the production of two extraordinarily attractive publications. They are a real tribute to your husband and his work and to his clearly remarkable and close friendship with Kyllikki Salmenhaara. It is important that his work is recorded in such splendid illustrations. We shall be delighted to keep [your books] in the library of this department where they may be seen by students and colleagues. I will also look for any opportunity to bring your husband's work to the attention of researchers–and indeed anyone interested in ceramics.


April 26, 2001 ..."Silent Sunflowers" this latest is another very beautiful and moving tribute to your husband's work and to his telling engagement with other cultures. He was clearly a very sympathetic, receptive man. We shall be glad to have this latest book in our library–and I shall spend many happy and rewarding hours reading it and using it.


Rita Vermala-Koski, Trustee
National Finlandia Foundation and
Nordic Heritage Museum
Seattle, Washington
November, 1999
I have read "Essential Passions" and find it to be a compelling and, at times touching chronicle of co-mingling of talent, determination and courage.


Emma Salmenhaara
Helsinki, Finland
November, 1999
Once again I am amazed with you, your courage and talent. THANK YOU for the copy of "Essential Passions." It is a gorgeous piece of work. My mother wanted me to tell you the same thing, she was very impressed too. [Kyllikki Salmenhaara's niece]


Garth Clark
Garth Clark Gallery
New York
February, 2000
"Essential Passions" has been beautifully produced and I very much enjoyed being able to open the envelopes and take out the facsimile correspondence. It brought the reader into an act of participation with the correspondents.


Margaret Carney, Ph.D.
The Schein-Joseph International Museum of Ceramic Art
Alfred University Alfred, New York
August, 1999
What an honor to have been part of your special book project. "Essential Passions" is beautiful and so creative. February, 2001 ...congratulations on the new publication "Silent Sunflowers"...and the copy of the article about Richard's work in Ceramics Art and Perception. I wish I had your energy and ability to get things done. You are amazing and doing a wonderful job of securing Richard's place in ceramic history.


Gretchen Adkins, critic
American Craft
New York
April/May 2000
Dixie Parker-Fairbanks, an energetic and loving widow who researched, compiled and arranged the material and provided the narrative fill-in, is the driving force behind this publication "Essential Passions"...the editorial connections she provides are spirited and add a refreshing punch to the book....the handwritten letters, a most intriguing aspect of the unfolding and reading the reader is more involved with their lives...then he might be reading a printed transcript.

Jacqueline Vodoz et Bruno Danese

Association De La Loi De 1901
Milan, Italy
February, 2000
"Essential Passions" is truly an outstanding publication in the lavishness of its documentation and in the story it tells. Also very fine and didactic is the book about the work of "Richard Fairbanks, American Potter." We are in the process of creating a consultation center for scholars and students, which concerns the work done by us in the sphere of Italian design. If we can keep the books, we could put them into our reference library.


Dorothy Twining Globus, Director
The Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology
New York
March, 2000
Thank you for sharing these wonderful books with me. Being an avid maker of journals and scrapbooks I was especially moved by "Essential Passions." My congratulations on the book, your extraordinary friendship and the work.


Inger Edwards, President
Finlandia Foundation Trust
Hampton Roads, Vermont
January, 2000
I have read "Essential Passions" and I am very touched by the experience. The book is very rich, both in terms of the contents and continuity of the letters, and in terms of your approach and final interpretation of the close relationship between these two fine artists though all those years.


Janet Mansfield, Publisher/Editor
Ceramics: Art and Perception
Paddington, Australia
March, 2000
Thank you for sending the beautiful books on your husband's work. It was a life story in ceramics and art. I am wondering what is the best that I can do...I would like to do something about the work of Richard Fairbanks.


New World Finn
April, 2000
Parker-Fairbanks has developed a memorable book "Essential Passions" of the journals, newspaper articles and above all the long, written "conversations" of the artists, with their colorful descriptions of their private and professional daily activities. Exchanges which also describe vividly their many study trips through Scandinavia, Europe and the Far East. Fairbanks and Salmenhaara understood the importance of enriching even the most mundane parts of life, with very real, very beautiful objects, among these–the handwritten letter.


Ralph Munro, Secretary of State
Olympia, Washington
May, 2000
I was so pleased to learn that a third book, "Silent Sunflowers: A Balkan Memoir" is being published to once again demonstrate the outstanding work of Richard Fairbanks. Richard is one of those newly discovered gems of Washington state. He was a native of the Pacific Northwest and had the opportunity to spend most of his life here. Now, he receives growing national and international attention through newly created publications and exhibits. It is important to remember that, although Richard was enthusiastic about his farflung European research trips, he found nothing elsewhere in the world to equal his love for our own state of Washington. Here, he found happiness, as well as inspiration and opportunity to create most of his works. I am so pleased that the world is discovering Richard Fairbanks.


Denise Clark, Rights Manager
University of Washington Press
March, 2001
The University of Washington Press is pleased to submit "Silent Sunflowers: A Balkan Memoir" for Washington State Book Award 2000.


Reference & Research Book News
May 2001
"Silent Sunflowers" This lovely book is a personal account of an artist couple's 1986 sabbatical trip to Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, Romania, and Hungary in search of folk art and artists. Dixie Parker-Fairbanks, a painter, and Richard Fairbanks, a potter, recorded the trip's ups and downs in journal entries, art, and photographs, many of which are reproduced here. They detail objects and ornamentation in architecture, household items, clothing, and rituals, as well as Soviet-era life in the villages and cities the couple visited.




soft cover, 5 x 8, 384 text pages, two photos

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Dixie Fairbanks has written of her husband’s final months of life–a time that might have been vastly different than the tumultuous story she relates hoping that professional caregivers will read it with open hearts, and the care of other families will be improved by the learning possible here. The love shared by Dixie and Richard Fairbanks is rarely seen. Professional caregivers in hospitals seldom encounter the devotion that Dixie demonstrated for her husband. In this story, she illuminated medical care at its best and worst. At the core of the worst care was a desperately flawed method of communication between caregivers and the Fairbanks. It is critical we develop a common language with patients and families that can profoundly influence the outcome of an illness.
Gerri Haynes
Pallative Care Consultant, Hospice Educator

“Heart of Shards” began eighteen years ago in an effort to deal with anger and frustration over the medical and legal experiences leading to Richard's death. Edited and shaped countless times, the first 1,000-page narrative became a testament to Richard’s courage and great love of life. Although he was unable to survive, Richard's voice was restored by others with the on-going passion for preserving his art and teaching. As Gerri Haynes observes, hopefully many within the medical community and beyond will be informed and benefit from what we so painfully endured.
Dixie Parker-Fairbanks