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Arizona State University Art Museum
Ceramics Research Center

by Carol Hall

Coille McLaughlin Hooven was born in New York City and grew up on the east coast.  Art was already in her genes: her father worked as an architect and her sister, a painter. Her Great Grandfather, James McLaughlin, was also an architect and designed the Cincinnati Art Museum.  In addition, her Great Aunt Mary Louise McLaughlin was instrumental in publicizing the American art pottery movement.  Among Louise McLaughlin’s achievements were writing a book on china painting, which became a best seller, and the discovery of Haviland’s technique for underglazing.  In addition she established the Cincinnati Pottery Club, wrote a manual on underglaze decoration, patented a technique for inlay decoration and became the first American working in studio porcelain.  The year Mary Louise McLaughlin died was also the year Coille McLaughlin was born; the great niece has carried on and extended the work of her relative.

Always interested in art, Hooven discovered ceramics when she enrolled in a beginning class at the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana, in 1959.  Her teacher was the legendary David Shaner, then a recent graduate of Alfred University, and he was not only to become her “spiritual teacher,” he and his family would become close friends, naming one of their children for her.  From Shaner she learned the wheel; later workshops with Peter Voulkos and other artists resulted in looser, more expressive work.

Hooven graduated from Illinois cum laude with a B.F.A.  She and her husband, painter Peter Hooven, joined the faculty of the Maryland Institute, College of Art, in Baltimore, MD.  Under her guidance the ceramics program grew from a one-wheel, one-room facility to a full department with complete facilities which she headed as Chairperson.  During this period she continued her own studio work, but most of her time was taken up with teaching and starting a family. 

In 1970, newly divorced and with two young children to raise, Hooven left Maryland and moved to Berkeley, CA.  She saw the ceramics field on the west coast as being freer, more open to exploration.  Without a job, needing to support her children, and with teaching jobs in short supply, she began working on her own, first at home and then in a shared studio, making pottery which she sold in craft fairs and group sales.  Juggling the demands of her life was difficult but she persevered, and in 1973 her first one-woman show was held in San Francisco at the Imprint Gallery; half of the pieces were sold before the show opened.

In 1976, noticing that Christmas ornaments her ten-year old daughter was making were very popular at her studio sale, she adopted the idea and went from there. She began selling her ornaments through department stores and in 1979 through the Museum Society of San Francisco.  The ornaments were so successful that she had to hire assistants to help with the production and sales representatives.  At the same time she was also making functional pottery and her dinnerware proved as popular as her ornaments.  Her business continued to grow to the point that she finally made a conscious decision to limit her production to allow her more time for her non-functional, more experimental and sculptural work.  A six-week period as artist-in-residence at the Kohler Company, Kohler, WI, allowed her to focus on moldmaking  and handbuilding, a chance to escape from the tyranny of the potters wheel. She started using porcelain shirts, shoes, gloves, and pillows instead of teapots as ground for artistic expression. She also returned to teaching, although on a more limited scale, in the San Francisco Bay area as well as in numerous workshops and lectures throughout the U.S. and Canada.

Hooven’s work is usually small-scale, delicate, often whimsical and imaginative.  She is also concerned with women’s issues and relationships.  She sees herself as a role model for younger women, as someone who has combined both family and working – as her own mother did – and done it successfully to the enrichment of everyone concerned.

Coille Hooven has shown her work in a number of exhibitions, both solo and group, and is included in such prestigious collections as the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Oakland Museum of California, the Museum of Fine Arts in Salt Lake City, Utah, and the National Collection of Fine Arts of the Smithsonian Institution.

The children Coille Hooven worked so hard to raise and support are now both grown, college graduates, and artists themselves.  The same daughter who had originally inspired the ornament making became a full partner with her mother in Hooven & Hooven, hand-crafted porcelain ornaments which were sold in department stores as well as online.  Coille herself has remarried and while still actively involved in ceramic arts, she and her recently-retired husband are also making time for travel and community activities.

October 2007

1.  Elaine Levin.  “Porcelains by Coille.”  American Craft (): 32.

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