Wednesday, March 7, 2012

"We have hands, We have human nature"

Recently Tracy Hall Braden, PSU Urban Studies Department,  wrote and posted a beautiful and insightful article penned after interviewing Ray Grimm as part of the Artisan Economy Initiative. Ray played a pivotal role in both ceramics and the hot glass movement in the NW and beyond. Read her article on the Artisan Economy Initiative.

Monday, February 27, 2012

A pair of Glasses

Recently my Uncle Rich was telling some of us a story about my dad that I had never heard before. To understand it better requires a bit of background. Ray, born in 1924, experienced the great depression in his childhood and entered the navy at the age of 17 to serve in the 2nd world war.

Ray was born into a german family with an older brother, an older sister and three younger brothers. School was a major challenge for him because his eye sight was poor and his parents thought of glasses more as a luxury then a necessity. These factors had a profound impact on his life and manifest themselves in his creativity, humility and resourcefulness.

After returning from the war he entered art school and worked a part time job at a soda bar. By that time the navy had diagnosed his vision problems and provided him with glasses. His youngest brother Rich was still in high school and Ray recongnized that Rich was struggling with vision just has he had. Knowing that their parents did not understand the importance of good vision, Ray made Rich go the eye doctor and then paid for new glasses with his own money. The cost was, no doubt, significant to a student.

What really strikes me about this story is not only the generosity and sense of responsibility which I have felt first hand, but the fact that in 60 years since that time, not even Jere had heard this story. And probably my dad had completely forgotten about it. His years of suffering with marginal vision seemed to have left him with profound empathy for others, be they students, friends or family.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Grandpa's shoes

Talk about resourceful: my grandpa wore the same pair of shoes for like 30 years!

What a big inspiration my grandfather was (and is) to me. He taught us all, by example, to do what we love, do it with gusto, and don't slow down. He shaped the lives of hundreds (if not thousands) of people. His enthusiasm was contagious, resourcefulness inspiring, and his love for all that he did and the people around him was heartwarming.

He has always been very generous and helpful. In high school he helped me win a new camera, the grand-prize of a city-wide photography competition, just by sitting in his chair in the living room and reading the newspaper!

My first year of college I signed up for a ceramics course. It was all I could think talk about the entire spring break before the class started. I couldn't wait to spend long hours in the studio, with fresh air and the smell of wet clay (and now my new ceramics friends will understand better when I brag about my grandparents). The class didn't let me down, It wasn't dark in the ceramics studio like it was in the darkroom, I was working with my hands, and I loved the friendly community atmosphere of the studio. it didn't take long before I changed my focus from photography to ceramics (and now, I thought, maybe I can be my grandparents' favorite!).

From the quick tips he gave me when I visited I could tell my grandpa was an amazing teacher. I remember visiting them not long after I started my first wheel throwing class. I was telling my grandpa that I was having trouble learning how to center the clay. I could pull the clay up and it felt centered, but when pushed the cone back down it would end up off center. He simply told me rather than pushing the clay straight down, to push it a little forward and down into my left hand. I tried it out back in the studio; WOW, what quick and easy suggestion which made a huge difference.

I could not be more proud to have Ray and Jere Grimm as grandparents. As a ceramic artist especially, I can not put into words how incredibly lucky I am to have such supportive and inspiring grandparents. I feel an incredible sadness and loss after he has passed away, but even more so I feel an overwhelming sense of gratitude. I am so so grateful to have had such an amazing grandfather.

Thank you for fighting in WWII, thank you for taking advantage of the GI bill, thank you for becoming such an amazing artist, thank you for falling in love with my grandmother, thank you for being so adventurous, thank you for being such enthusiastic father, thank you for being an inspiring teacher, thank you for your persistence, thank you for your honesty, I know you hated to do it, but thank you for letting grandma give me those tools you got for her in Italy I use them everyday! thank you for being a great grandpa. I could go on forever. Thank you.

And I am working on my handles :)

Love Always,

Monday, February 13, 2012


Shy 20 yers ago, got wind of a train trip from PDX to MSP. Jere & Ray were heading my way to connect with Wisconsin Family. We surprised, kidnapped, & provided shelter for them when they got off the train @ midnight.

Next morning, we talked them into taking the Chevy pick-up (as I knew this would be right up Ray's alley.) Off they went -towards the rolling hills of Wisconsin -for a couple of days.

Upon return, we spent an afternoon in downtown Minneapolis. Ever grateful for that time with them and later for the beautiful cups and Pen & Ink drawing of our garden they sent in gratitude.

Sharon Locke

Memorial Video/Slideshow

Here is a link to the the slideshow from the Memorial on youtube.

- Joan Grimm

Friday, February 10, 2012

True Recycler

My first experience with Ray was a wonderful linkage of art and environment. In the early 1970s, I managed a recycling center on the PSU campus (essentially the only one in the city at that time). A block away, Ray and others had established a glass-furnace operation. Somewhere along the way, the glassmakers realized the recyclers had good, clean glass that could be used in their furnaces. At that time, we especially had specialty glass, such as the cobalt-blue and white glass used for women’s skin care and make-up.

Ray always felt bad that the school lacked funds to pay us for our glass. But he figured out a wonderful way around this small problem. His student artists were required to make glass objects for us, and I still have a number of remarkable pieces in my home. It was one of the gr
eat joys of my job then to wheel a 55-gallon barrel of clean scrap glass down the street on a late afternoon to the hot-glass studio and then to hang out with Ray and others. They taught me much about their craft and I told them some truths and few lies about recycling.

Jerry Powell

Teacher and Friend

Ray Grimm, My teacher and friend

The first time I met Ray was in the summer of 1965. I was living in Eugene and had taken ceramics at the University of Oregon with Bob James. I had become quite excited about it and had learned to throw on a kick wheel and help with kiln building. Since I was planning to move to Portland, I went to PSC (now Portland State University) to look at the art department. At the Art Department office the secretary said that the professor was in the ceramics studio if I wanted to talk to him. I went into the studio on the 2nd floor and there was Ray working on a wheel. I introduced myself, and told him that I wanted to study ceramics. He did not stop working but talked to me in his open friendly manner. Although I didn’t have much experience he had confidence in me and asked if I would like to be his lab assistant. I was so excited with the opportunity that I could not wait to get started. After moving to Portland and started working in the department, Ray was consistently generous with his time and soon I was mixing clay and glazes, loading kilns and most exciting, firing the large gas kiln.

The ceramics studio was the center of learning and social activity for the art department and Ray, had a child-like interest and excitement about anything that we were doing. I cannot think of a moment in all the years that I have known Ray, even after he was having significant health problems, that he was not in a cheerful mood, quick to laugh. He was clearly happy in his work and with his family whom he mentioned often.

I did not realize the significance of it at the time, but he exposed his students to many giants of the ceramics arts. Peter Voulkos, Paul Soldner, Toshiko Takaezu, Howard Kotler, Eric Gronberg, Micheal Cardew, Daniel Rhodes, Bernard Leach and Soji Homada to name a few. To understand the significance, some of these artists are to contemporary ceramics what Picasso and Cezanne are to painting. Later when he set up a glass studio he brought in Marvin Lipofsky.

Ray taught that ceramics was less an art form than a life style of which he was a wonderful model. He was fun loving, ever helpful, willing to experiment and always enjoyed a lively conversation around a table with good food and a glass of wine. He would lead raku workshops on Sauves Island that were a combination of party and all night fire ritual that would culminate in a flurry of creative energy with beautiful pots as a result.

Ray was constantly looking out for the best interest of his students and opening doors. One day he called me into his office and said there was a teaching position open at Arts & Crafts Society (now the Oregon School of Arts & Crafts). I could not believe it since I had not graduated yet. He encouraged me and with his help I applied and got the job, I worked there for a number of years then left the area to live in California.

My wife Maureen and I reconnected with Ray and Jere after we moved back to Oregon about 6 years ago. We enjoyed meals together and just good times. I was aware of his fragile condition so the news of his passing was not unexpected, but at the same time I was shocked. When I think of Ray I see him as he was when I was his student, vital, lively, impish, funny and always happy. Though his body was failing those qualities were present the last time we were with Ray and Jere. We were sitting around the table, with a glass of wine, marveling at the quirky and very creative cups his granddaughter, Autumn (a MFA student in ceramics at LSU) made. He really had not changed much, very vital and happy; though still the teacher, commenting that he thought she needs to work on her handles.

The people who make a real impact on our lives are few but very special. Ray was one of those people in my life and I am constantly grateful. Thank you for being the person your where in so many people’s life…………Jerry Parks