Voices of Minnesota

Oral History Interview with Martha W. Cutkomp

DATE: September 28, 2006

INTERVIEWER: Marcia Anderson

Martha W. (Jaques) Cutkomp grew up in Mount Pleasant, Iowa. She attended Iowa State College where she began making pottery in the Ceramic Engineering department in 1936. She earned her degree in Applied Art in 1938. After teaching home economics and art for a year in Stratton, Iowa, she married Laurence Cutkomp in 1940, with whom she would go on to have four children. They lived first in Ithaca, New York; then Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; then Sheffield, Alabama; before settling in Minnesota in 1947. In 1949 she took classes at the St. Paul Summit School of Art and began wheel throwing. Cutkomp built a pottery studio in the basement of her home in Saint Anthony Park and spent the next several years as a self-described full time housewife and part time potter.

Martha Cutkomp's reputation as a talented potter continued to grow over the next two decades, during which time she participated in many group art exhibits/sales and became a charter member of the Minnesota Crafts Council. Cutkomp divorced in 1969 and moved to a rural area in Woodbury, Minnesota where she was a full time potter out of her home studio. She continued to participate in many group shows and sales in addition to having solo sales at her own studio several times a year until her retirement at age seventy-two. At that time she sold her home in Woodbury and moved to Shelton, Washington, where she has resided since 1988. Since then she has continued to create functional and sculptural porcelain and stoneware pottery.

Subjects discussed include: childhood and family background; early interest in nature and art; college at Iowa State; potting after she moved to Ithaca, New York; making ceramic jewelry and having her first daughter, Kay, after moving to Pennsylvania; moving to Alabama and hand modeling clay at that time; digging and processing her own clay; finding her own materials to create oxides; creating her own glazes; moving to Minnesota and buying a home in Saint Anthony; classes at St. Paul Summit School of Art with Warren MacKenzie and Alix MacKenzie; starting wheel work; materials and processes used while taking classes; creating a studio in the basement of her Saint Anthony home and building her own wheel and kiln; art influences, including potters Bernard Leach and Michael Cardue and fellow artists she has associated with in Minnesota; her artistic process and color choices; involving her children in art as they were growing up; her children's careers as adults and their individual artistic styles; her shift to using porcelain and a smaller scale in her work; creating functional versus sculptural works; moving to Woodbury and living in a rural environment closer to nature; creating her studio at her Woodbury home; participating in fairs and shows; involvement in the Har Mar Mall Fine Art Show and Apache Plaza Art Show; meeting artist Dewey Albinson; the process of selling her work at shows and out of her studio at her own sales; the volume of work she created and had available for each sale; being included in the fine art exhibit one year and demonstrating wheel throwing for several years at the Minnesota State Fair; her identity as a woman potter; dealing with patrons and pricing; what participating in art shows and fairs is like now for her daughter and son-in-law; her signature on her work; sharing ownership of a kiln with potter Peter Leach; significant patrons of her work; involvement in the Minnesota Crafts Council; her views on donating work; retiring and moving to Washington state; materials, studio access and fellow artists in Washington; selling her work in Washington; current activities and being creative.

LENGTH OF INTERVIEW: 2 hours 22 minutes

TRANSCRIPT: 68 pages