Glen Lukens (1887-1967) changed the way we view ceramics today. Lukens, an award-winning ceramicist and revered instructor, developed rough clay techniques paired with vibrant glazes that had not been seen before.
Glen Lukens was born in Cowgill, Montanaand attended Teachers College in Missouri, then Oregon State Agricultural College where he was required to take ceramics, but without pottery wheels—he coiled his pieces. In 1921,he attended the Chicago Art Institute where he purchased his first potter’s wheel, made with a sewing machine treadle—a very common wheel set up at that time. Lukens was thoroughly interested in original glaze research and rediscovered Egyptian blue, and eventually Chinese blue. He exhibited his turquoise beads at the 1931 San Francisco Golden Gate Exposition. Shortly after this, University of Southern California asked him to join the faculty and establish a ceramics department.
Lukens and his students dug California clays and experimented with clay bodies—as materials were hard to get during the depression. Lukens’ work was always low fired (no hotter than 1850 degrees) earthenware and terra cottaclay. He was different from many of his peers,always wearing a loose blue smock and a rope as a belt. Due to persistent and severe arthritis,he did not throw on the potter’s wheel or give wheel throwing demonstrations. He frequently worked with minority students, particularly in the settlement projects in Los Angeles where he set up clay programs. He alsoworked with mid-career public school teachers to teach them procedures to use ordinary tools and materials they could easily acquire.