I am a Minnesota potter doing functional stoneware. My work represents a lifetime of work and study. Kyoto, Japan, and a year+ as apprentice to the honorable Kunio Uchida , master potter, marked the beginning of my most serious work. I have spent the last few years teaching workshops all across America, and have written many articles for Ceramics Monthly, Claytimes and Pottery Making Illustrated.
I fire a 45 cubic foot flat top kiln at my home studio. At my farm studio in Wisconsin, I maintain several kilns, stoneware, hard brick salt kiln and a classic wood fired anagama. Wood fring has been curtailed at this time. We love the "Minnesota Flat Top"design. Mel worked for years with Nils Lou/, Oregon the inventor of this classic kiln design.. Mel made the first tiny version of the kiln, and worked to make various variations of the basic design.
Several kiln sites located in the Fujien province of China, where the region's finest white tea leaves are grown, generated bowls for the purpose of drinking the legendary whisked beverage. Called Chien Yao bowls, they are characterized by subtle glaze effects, such as brown and silver streaking referred to as "partridge feathers" and "hare's fur" and silvery splashes of iron crystals called "oil spot," that rise up to the surface during cooling. Both sections of this 3-month exhibition included a collection of 1000-year-old Chinese teabowls, glazed with the illusive iron saturated glazes. Also on exhibit will be recovered ceramic vessels from shipwrecks in the Philippines that date from the Sung to the Ming Dynasties. People will be able to view these archeological finds as related to the story of iron glazes. Part II will feature fine examples from the brown-and-black-glazed ceramics of Mel Jacobson and Joe Koons. This part of the show will feature glazes that have not been reproduced in nearly 1,000 years. Only three examples of the Yohen tenmoku exist in Japanese collections to date. However, this iridescent effect will be well represented in the show.
Mel is a product of the Minneapolis public school system graduating from old West high school. His education was continued at Hamline University, St. Paul, MN. He played football and was on the swim team. He transferred to the University of Minnesota and majored in sociology and philosophy. Switching majors in his senior year brought him to art. He graduated from the University with a degree in Art Education in 1958. His Masters Degree was completed in 1961 and he has completed a 90 credit `studio study` in painting at the University of Minnesota.
His teaching career began in Ely, MN. He returned to the Twin Cities and began teaching at the Hopkins Public Schools, a fine suburban school district with a superb national reputation for excellence. He built his program into one of the finest high school ceramics programs in the nation. He was named one of the outstanding ceramic educators in America by New York University and Studio Potter magazine. He retired from Hopkins in 1992 after 34 years of teaching.. His career was concluded by teaching 6 classes of ceramics a day attended by 185 students. He also extended his teaching day into the evenings by having two of his advanced classes meeting from 6:00 to 8:30 p.m. two nights per week.
A year and half apprenticeship to the studio of Kunio Uchida, master potter of Kyoto, Japan was undertaken in the early seventies. This experience was followed by 7 solo exhibits in Japan, including the American Embassy, and Matsuya gallery, Ginza, Tokyo.
The Nineteen Eighties were marked by three trips to the Persian Gulf states of Dubai, and Abhu Dahbi where Mel helped establish an art center for expatriate oil families. Several solo exhibits were held at the Dubai art center.
Mel was an adjunct professor of art for the University of Wisconsin system for 16 years. Teaching at the Pigeon Lake summer art camp was the start of his ideas for "adult shared learning". This program has now flourished as his Hay Creek Studio camp at his farm in Wisconsin. As director, he has made a place for professional artists and teachers to gather each summer and share ideas in art, ceramics, craft and theory. The facility has a dorm, pottery with 7 kilns, wood shop, and other studios for calligraphy, sewing and painting. All teaching is done by the attending artists.
Mel has traveled the world extensively. Many trips to Europe and Asia, including Australia, Egypt, India, Shri Lanka, Central America and of course the Persian Gulf and Mainland China and Japan.
A full time studio is maintained in Minnetonka, MN. He fires a 45 cubic foot "Minnesota Flat Top" kiln using traditional functional forms and glazes at stoneware temperatures. Sales are held at the studio several times each year. Mel continues to make pots and paint at a steady rate and does custom work for churches and private collectors.
The late nineties has led him to doing workshops around the United States, including Dallas, Charleston, St. Petersburg , Phoenix, San Fransisco, San Diego, Appalachian Center for the Crafts and Denver, New York and South Carolina. The spring of 2000 found him at the Southern Clay Conference as a principal presenter. He has given a topical discussion at the National Council for the Education of Ceramic Arts, and presented a paper on "electronic education" 2007. Teaching trips to New Mexico, Cincinnati, Ohio, in 2002, were preceded by a presentation at the American Ceramics Society.
Mel was featured in the December, 1997 "Ceramics Monthly" magazine. He is pictured on the cover, and includes an 8 page story with 10 photos of his work.
A New kiln design using ITC coatings and modules is the topic for an article running in the December, 1998 Ceramics Monthly and December 1999 he has an article on Susan Karrasch.
Articles have appeared in Clay Times (3) and the Journal of the American Art Pottery Assoc. He also writes for Pottery Making Illustrated.(8)
The new century finds Mel directing and moderating the world's largest ceramic online listserv called "CLAYART". This discussion /educational group is made up of well over 4,000 potters and clay enthusiasts from 89 countries from around the world.
The Minnetonka Center for the Arts, one of Minnesota's oldest art centers named Mel to it's board of directors (2000 to 2003).
Pottery Making Illustrated ran a cover story written by Mel on the technique of Japanese hump throwing in its Fall, 2000 issue
New articles appeared in Ceramics Monthly for December 2000 "Black Shino" and Claytimes/"Collaboration" fall 2000.
An article on the work and life of Kevin Caufield appeared April of 2002, Ceramics Monthly.
A major article on his study with Joe Koons of Jian Chinese glazes appeared/ Spring, 2005 in Ceramics Monthly magazine.
The American Museum of Ceramic Art (AMOCA) hosted an international exhibition of the new works, May 2005. The "Iron Saga" project has moved to China, Spring, 2006
Hong Kong University Museum has shown the pots, and an exhibition of the work opened at the "Caroline Chen" gallery, Shanghai/spring 2006. A small selection of the work will be housed at the museum of the original kiln site at Jian. Mel also presented a "paper" to the National Academy of Science of China, expaining the technique.
2009 has been devoted to writing a new book about 21st Century Kilns. This has been a major undertaking. It is hoped that the book will be a major force in modern kiln construction and firing. 2020 still finds the book well reviewed and sold briskly on Amazon as an E-book.
A book on downfiring kilns was written in 2018.
The Hopkins Center for the Arts did a major one man show in 2015. 50 Years of Mel's work.
Mel's three tea bowls, `Chawan style` were exhibited in a World chawan show in Taiwan. 2017.
Mel's book, "Pottery: A Life, A Lifetime", NOW AVAILABLE AT AMAZON BOOKS
Book Cover and Pix of Mel/2015