Sunday, January 5, 2014

In Celebration of a Collector, Sharing

My first impression of Margo Potheau was that she was a generous person, who loved the spirit of collecting and making art.

A while back, I put this "Wanted" post on the breakables yahoogroup: 
Anyone have a 6" HR DW Amir in deplorable condition? (;^) I am looking for this body for customizing. Color, missing parts, rough finish, or already sporting a Testors paintjob with craft fur not important. I have a dream...

The Amir mold was a good start towards capturing the body type and presence of my own real Fjords, at the time. I was willing to pay for the body, but Margo wrote and said she was sending me an Amir as a gift. He had a couple breaks, had a rough surface (not enough glaze), had been primed once, and then partially stripped. I restored his breaks, and started a process of converting him into a Fjord gelding. Mind you, I usually collect HR, I don't customize HR, so this was my only foray into this sort of thing. My own ceramics studio blossomed in 2003, and I had to focus on work and not play, so Fjord-Amir was put in a cabinet next to my work chair, always watching over my shoulder.

Margo collected the early ceramics I did for Pour Horse, and was a Voltage customer (the first Lucas Studio piece). I made a satin bay Sia for Margo, a piece from my solo ceramic studio line. I'm told she picked up more of Sia, from the secondary market. All along my ceramics career, Margo has been there, collecting and placing orders with a no-pressure, patient manner.

Last September, I heard that Margo was not well, no other details, just that. I photographed the Amir, realizing I hadn't shared his progress with her. He is a cute little guy, maybe it would cheer her up? After all, who doesn't like random in-progress model horse pix when they have the flu? This is something hobbyists do, whenever friends are bummed out or under the weather; we send photos or links to things we think they'll like.

Epoxy was added to the lower belly to give him a Fjord underline.
Likewise, the Fjord muzzle is flatter than an Arabian.

The ceramic molded mane had to be covered with new flesh.
The next phase would be tail, bone and feather on the legs.

Margo wrote me back:
Thank you so much for the pics!! He is going to be awesome! 
On another note, I am dispersing my collection... I would especially like you to have some of Maureen's original drawings and some of the pieces from her estate as well as some old Made With Love pieces. At this point money is not as important as seeing them go where they will be appreciated! So send me your address and I will carefully package an assortment for you. This will be a tremendous gift to me!

This was so moving, it made me cry. I'm not a big crier. I was wrecked for the rest of the day. As you've read before, circumstances prevented me from participating in most of the estate auctions. I had three pieces. My reply:
I want to type clearly, but am crying. A tremendous gift, indeed. I will keep whatever you send intact. I don't sell such things. It all has layers of meaning, and process revelations. I do restorations, so broken items are well-loved here. Even [Maureen's] trees, frogs, small animals are wonderful to me. I am looking for most of the MWL and MLO molds, so surprises are wonderful! Is there anything I can do for you, in appreciation of such a gift? I missed out on the sketches entirely, so anything you send of paper artworks will be cherished. I remember being a teen in high school, and getting to turn through some of the intact sketchbooks, over 20 years ago. They were amazing. May I send you money for shipping and packing materials? ... I'm just at a loss for words, thank you, thank you. I look forward to learning even more from those works, and sharing the discoveries on the blog.

Margo then told me that she was not getting better. This was no flu. She was about to begin radiation, and hoped to buy herself enough time to find homes for her most treasured collectibles. I think that sentiment shows the distinction of a serious collector.

You can't imagine what it means to me to have found the right home for my Maureen pieces! I have had so much enjoyment from them; several I've had since the '70's. I will start sending as soon as possible. I started radiation and immunotherapy this week and I am wiped! Hopefully I'll adjust soon and get to work. Can't wait to see the blogs!

I told her I admired her bravery in taking treatments. I shared a story of a family member who experienced longer-than-expected time from similar care. I wanted her to know: 

I just want to say again, thank you, your gesture has touched me. Everyone will get to enjoy the Maureen pieces you send, via the blog. Her family said Maureen always wanted her work shared with as many people as possible.

Margo began selling a few HRs on eBay, and one buyer told me that she had added extra pieces in with the auction item, when it shipped. She wanted her pieces to go to those who would love them.

Sadly, I never heard from her again. Margo didn't get to see the blog posts about her collection. She declined quickly after treatments. When I learned of her passing, it came as a surprise because I thought she had months of time ahead, now that she was getting treatment. A friend pointed out the obituary post to me online, as I'd not seen it, locked in my own bubble of work and family stresses.

Margo Clark Potheau, 66, of Sherborn, MA died amongst friends and family on October 31, 2013, of metastatic melanoma. She is survived by her son, Charlie Potheau, of Homer, Alaska, and daughter, Danielle Potheau, of San Diego, CA. She was the daughter of Geoffrey Clark and Martha Shurtleff Clark of Sandwich, who preceded her in death by eight years, and five years, respectively. She was the beloved sister of Martha Clark Scala of Palo Alto, CA, and the late Nicholas Clark of Concord. She is also survived by many dear friends, including Betsy and Al Chapman of Marlborough, Mark Doran of Sherborn, and several cousins. Margo was a talented horsewoman in her youth in El Paso, Texas, winning numerous blue ribbons for dressage and jumping. She attended the Cambridge School of Weston, Reed College, and graduated from Boston University. Prior to the birth of her two children, Margo drove a BMW for Circle Tire in stock car races, and was an active member of the BMW Car Club of America. While raising kids, she successfully ran a mail order business, and then earned certification as an EMT and Medic. Margo served as a Home Health Aide for the VNA of Natick and for numerous private clients, and volunteered for the Sherborn Fire Department. Margo loved horses, helping those in physical need, collecting, playing games, cold weather, and her beloved Kindle. She was an avid sports fan who relished every Patriots win, and loved seeing the Red Sox win the World Series once again. She greatly valued the acquaintances and friends she made through the model collection community. Margo will forever be remembered as a strong woman with a gentle spirit, who loved to laugh. No public services will be held. Donations in her memory may be made to Melanoma Foundation of New England, 111 Old Road to 9 Acre Corner, Concord, MA 01742, or Relay for Life/American Cancer Society.

Margo had written to me that her family all lived far away, thus she was making her own effort to place her collectibles. I honestly felt that her gesture of that wish, to send her Loves, was an immense compliment. It was a gift in its own way. When I heard she had passed, I imagined that the gesture went with her, and made no efforts to contact her family. I felt warm and fuzzy just from what she had written. Months passed, holidays buzzed in.

On December 28th, I received an email:

This is Margo Potheau's daughter, Danielle. I am reaching out to you because before my mother passed she had selected items from her figurine collection she wished to gift to you. It is a collection of 21 pieces, all of which I think are items she had gotten from Maureen Love's estate. I am now ready to ship these along to you, and wanted to find out your address and if you have a shipping preference of USPS, FedEx, or UPS. It will be several shipments so that I can properly wrap and package the items so they aren't damaged in transit. I look forward to hearing from you.

It had not dawned on me that Margo might have written down, or told another person of her intentions! I didn't imagine a family member would make the long journey across the country to carry out her wishes. And so, you find me, a sudden recipient of a bequest of original Maureen Love art. This is the Margo Potheau Group.

Danielle wrote:
It's good to know they are going to such a good home where they will be cherished as my mother cherished them. Maureen was such a gifted talent, and it must have been an incredible experience to learn from her. I imagine her to have been a gentle and special soul.
... I love getting to hear some of the history and personal stories behind the models, and to hear them from someone who is so intimately familiar with them is really special. I really can't tell you how much it means to know these beloved treasures are someplace special. It took great effort to get my Mom back to her house to select all these from her collection, but it was so important to her. It was her last outing and I think she had to muster a lot of strength to make it happen, and this is kind of trademark behavior for her to be considerate, generous, and thoughtful. She was a caregiver through and through. It is a true pleasure to pass these treasures along to you. I look forward to seeing your posts and updates of all these special pieces.
I find the packing process to be quite meditative and each one a miniature ceremony of letting go and sending it on with me and my mother's blessing.

All of these were surprises to me. I had no idea what Margo had chosen, other than the hints in her emails above. The most uncanny thing about all of this, is how Margo knew to select the most perfect pieces for me. This HR Miniatures Longhorn appears to be a factory goof. Something fell over on him in the glaze firing, as you can see the edges of enmeshed glaze on top of his hip and loin. She must have picked him because so many of my blog posts are about factory goof pieces that I love. I adore this little dude!

This HR Miniatures Hereford Bull was custom glazed by Maureen. I have no idea how Margo knew to choose him, because I haven't done the blog post about the mini custom glaze cattle Maureen did, yet. It's coming. I am very fond of her cattle, and I've studied them since my first calf sculpture for Pour Horse in 1994.

Note his hazel or blue eyes.

This tortoise (not a sea turtle) reminds me a lot of the giant tortoises that I volunteered with at the local zoo, here in TN. At first, I doubted that this was by Maureen, as she did have other artworks in her estate. Last night, Dawn Sinkovich confirmed that she had pulled it out of a little crate at Maureen's house, and asked Maureen about it, many years ago. Maureen told her that she had made it. The textured glaze on the carapace is fantastic!

The Cricket is a raku edition by Maureen's close friend, Laurilyn Burson. Maureen partnered with Laurilyn for their company, Made With Love. Molds From Maureen's Garage was a spin-off line, within that partnership. This Horned Toad lizard, quite full of himself, was a MFMG edition.

I wish I had more information about these two geese. One has an inscription carved into the bottom that even I have difficulty reading. It looks like numbers, not letters. They have the carved-out eye sockets of several of Maureen's stylized works. The gloss white is larger, possibly earthenware with less shrinkage. It is propped upright for the photo, as its head and neck poured solid, tipping it forward. The smaller gray seems to be highfire stoneware. They both have tons of feather detail sgraffito in the glaze!

This adorable stoneware has been called the "Fighting Rooster". I think he's actually doing his morning crowing. The glaze on his tail feathers gives the effect of the dark, iridescent feathers of a real rooster tail!

When I was a teen, I saw some of these mice in progress at Maureen's home. The date on this one means it could be one I saw being born!

This is a stoneware Arabian Foal, with a simple antiquing of oxides to decorate him. I think it makes him look like ancient art. Such a great example of how beautiful her work is, even in subtle decoration.

Nothing could prepare me for holding the original wax of the Foal, in my hands. I recall Maureen recycling her Plasticarve waxes by melting them down for new sculpture castings. The waxes are the best detailed, closest-to-the-original sculptures; Maureen refined each wax for final molding. Each sculpture design, unless it was retooled later, had only one wax master. Her plastilina (oil clay) originals would not survive, so the waxes are the next closest to original. All of Maureen's toolmarks are there. You can even see the drawn-on mold lines.

Maureen had patched the bottom surface with putty. This is the early stoneware version's wax of the Foal, as the MWL/MFMG Calendar Foals were retooled to be smooth.

The following feather-footed chickens are interesting for a potter. Maureen used a white glaze to mask the color of the tinted slips, then washed markings over the glaze. You can see the pink of the terracotta coming through the white glaze, and the comb's clear glaze, on this one. This looks very similar to old tin-glazed pottery.

 All three are cast in different slips! Left to right: dark brown, tan/yellow, and terracotta red.

I was wildly excited to find this Western Bluebird in the box. I had missed out on every single bird auction. I am so happy to finally enjoy one of her stoneware bird species portraits in my studio! I think he was meant to be displayed on the side shown below, because he has a larger, more detailed wing on that side, and the base signature underneath reads towards that view.

Since everything was a complete surprise, I was not able to prepare for displaying each item immediately. This is the original positive for the MLO male Quail. I found this wooden base today in my studio, which will work for this photo shoot. He had to take up a temporary residence on the Share The Love mold shelf! I am now displaying him in a foam nest, as he is so huge, heavy, and roly-poly, he could crush the other pieces.

When I was at Pour Horse, Joan studied moldmaking with Laurilyn. We both had the opportunity to buy low edition numbers of Wild Horse and G.G. the Clydesdale, and even got to custom glaze some for Laurilyn. Odd as it is, I never owned a custom by Laurilyn on either of these molds. I had the OF stonewares, and the two claybodies that Maureen gave me permission to do. I have always wanted custom stonewares of these two. These are both the burnished matte stoneware that gave Laurilyn so much hassle. It's my favorite finish. How did Margo know?

MLO "Horse with Tree". This is the actual model shown on page 28 of Nancy's book. There are so many details on the base and his coat. He will need a blog post on his own. A year ago, my husband tried to win a dark brown one on eBay, to surprise me. He didn't win, and I was glad he didn't go higher because that one was damaged. This one is pristine (thanks to Danielle's brilliant packing) and my favorite horse color. There is absolutely no way Margo could have known this... all she knew (from email) was that I liked Maureen's trees.

This MLO "Indian on Pony" is a survivor. Sometime in its life, probably before Margo owned it, it had been broken off its base. The chips and breaks where it separated have aged repairs, so this must have occurred decades ago. This piece is very unusual because most of the glaze detail is on the rider, not the pony. The rider's moccasins have multi-color "beadwork", the hatch pattern on the saddle blanket has many colors, and he has lots of stripes in his poncho. Blog readers may remember, this has special significance because of the Share The Love project I have been contracted to produce. The Pony is one of the first editions.

This is the horse that gave me chills when I opened his foam packing. I knew his name, and greeted him... "Hello, Shah Zaman!" He is the exact model shown on the Maureen Love page of The Model Horse Gallery. I had no idea where the piece was, or who owned him. His vertical glaze mark behind his girth matches. His owner was anonymous, and all that was known was the name the owner had given him. It will always be his name.

This exact horse came up in a conversation about the MLO Arabian mold on breakables yahoogroup, the week after Margo passed. There is absolutely no way she could have seen and reacted to my words:

[MLO Arabian in a show program ad] appears to be Shah Zaman, shown here: 
Yes, stoneware is different in slip formula, shrinkage, warpage (!), decoration, and techniques. Some low-fire decoration materials claim they can be used up to stoneware temps, but IME, it's always different from the low-fire results.
I'm looking for this model in any color or era (MLO or MFMG), if anyone knows of one for sale.  

This group of artworks fits my personal searches for Love art so perfectly, it gives me goosebumps. There will be more in-depth articles about the pieces, as I dig up more information, and study their finishes. I hope you enjoy the sharing of this Margo Potheau Group, as this is what she wanted: for people to see, enjoy, and learn about Maureen's art.

Readers from outside the model horse hobby may be wondering if this is commonplace. I have heard from experienced collectors that a bequest usually goes no further than words. Many people even forget "first-right-of-refusal" to sell items to friends, while they are living. It is very rare for family members to receive instructions from a collector at all, and even rarer for those to be carried out. 

Margo, thank you for your continuous generosity, and for supporting my art, too. Danielle, thank you for graciously helping your mother complete this gift. Deepest Gratitude, and Much Love.


  1. Thank you so, so, so much for sharing these treasures with us! What a wonderful, touching story. <3

  2. gosh, I just ran across this post as I was checking a birthday reminder which included Margos birthday on FB. SOOOOOOOO sad, to say , I fell off the collectors wagon several years back due to some very sad family drama. I soooooooo enjoyed margo in our yahoo chat days and HR collections. I do believe I have a few HRs she also shared with me. Cheers to Margo!