The image of the poor, starving artist didn't apply to master potter Otto Heino, who died one year ago. His handmade vessels, which blended Scandinavian modernism and Japanese folk pottery, could go for more than $25,000 a piece and made him a multimillionaire.
Heino had an international reputation for robust yet beautiful wheel-thrown stoneware with artistically applied glazes that included glossy cobalt blues, silky reds and raspy earth tones.
In the mid-1990s, he brought to life a lost-to-the-ages buttery yellow Chinese glaze that made him especially famous in Asia. Although he said he was offered millions for the formula, he never sold it.
Jo Lauria, coauthor of the ceramics book "Color and Fire," wrote this about Heino's pottery:
"He had a macho relationship with clay, and it was a badge of honor to be able to throw huge pieces, but they were always functional, emphasizing the sensuality of the glaze, the way in which it catches the light and invites you to touch it."
Heino was the fifth of 12 children born to his Finnish parents. He was raised on a New Hampshire farm and for five years served in the Army Air Forces as a fighter plane crew chief and a B-17 gunner. He found his love for pottery at a studio in England while he was on furlough from the military.
For more about the master potter who was a symbol of the mid-century California studio crafts movement, read Heino's obituary in The Times.
-- Michael Farr
Photo: Otto Heino with the organic, modern pottery pieces he produced in his Ojai studio. Credit: Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times