One of Colorado’s master ceramists, Nan Bangs McKinnell, died in early August. She was born in Stanton, Nebraska in 1913, and received a bachelor’s degree in music and education from the Teacher’s College in Wayne, Nebraska. While studying for her M.F.A. degree in ceramics at the University of Washington, she met her husband, Jim.
Using Jim’s GI education money from his Navy service during WWII, Nan and Jim studied art in Europe, visiting France, England and Scotland. They moved to Colorado in 1951 where they both taught ceramics at the University of Colorado. During their careers they taught together at the University of Iowa, Alfred University, the Edinburgh College of Art, Colorado State University, the Glasgow School of Art, and Loretto Heights College. They eventually settled in Fort Collins, Colorado.
In addition to the extensive collection of both Nan’s and Jim’s work in Kirkland Museum, Nan’s work is part of the collections in the American Museum of Ceramic Art and the National Museum of American History at the Smithsonian. Her work is known for its creative glazes; including a deep copper red glaze that she invented that is in wide use today. She described her work as “feminine”, and delicate shapes, fine decoration, lacy edges, and elegant decoration distinguish her work, whether small or monumental.
You’ll find a full shelf of Nan’s beautiful work in the Colorado Ceramics cases on the lower level of Kirkland Museum. In the shop, we have one remaining piece for sale, a lacy, spring green masterwork from one of Colorado’s finest artists.