art for everyone. every monday morning.

Kenneth Ferguson • American: 1928-2004

Tripod Teapot with Hares C: 2000 • Stoneware with Chrome Slip 17 1/2” x 13”

Once upon a time, an Indiana farm boy was raised by no-nonsense factory workers whose bucolic family farm had become family history. He was a hard-worker, like his parents, and ended up in the Korean War where he was fascinated by the exotic beauty of Japan. Upon returning home, obsessed with Asian pottery, he became a student at the famed Alfred University Ceramics Institute. He was tightly wound and started every workday with a list of ceramics pieces to make that day. He moved mechanically through the day, checking off each piece as he finished it. His work was precise, elegant, symmetric and perfectly thrown. 

He was not a happy man.

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Inside Ken Ferguson a whimsical soul must have labored to be free. And, sometime after the age of 40, it could no longer be suppressed. Suddenly the handles he was putting on his oh-so-functional pots became rabbits. “It started because it is such a distinctive shape,” said Ferguson. “You know, the head, the long ears.” Soon, he learned that he could slow his wheel and create pieces less formal in their shape, but with more personality. He realized other people could take care of the world’s need for cookie jars. His inner “jolly” was free to roam.

Three decades later, when the jolly old potter with the white hair and beard, drew his last breath, he was one of the most beloved and respected figures in the ceramics arts. His whimsical rabbits and other woodland creatures decorate works in many major museums across the land, including the Canton Museum of Art.

And so the story ends, happily ever after.

Canton Museum of Art Permanent Collection
Purchased with Monies from the Doran Foundation and in Memory of Edward a. & Rosa J. Langenbach, 2000.1


4 Ways to Sound Smart When Viewing at The Canton Museum of Art

“Mr. Ferguson was a well-known and well-loved professor of ceramics at the Kansas City Art Institute for 32 years.”

“He started as a maker of very functional pots and other ceramics and, later in life, learned to lighten up.”

“By learning to work more slowly and deliberately, he loosened his forms and created his famous ‘Slump Jars’ in the early 1980s”

“In 1981 he was named ‘One of the 12 Greatest Living Potters’ in a survey by Ceramics Monthly Magazine.”


Ferguson Timeline. Scroll over images to see timeline.