Louis Mideke (1908-1989) was born and raised in Grandview, Washington. During the depression he worked for a mining firm in Alaska. During World War II he and his wife Jean lived in Bremerton, Washington where Louis worked as a welder at the Bremerton Naval Yard repairing damaged ships.
Louis was first introduced to clay when his wife brought some home from a ceramics course she was taking. Louis fashioned it into various forms and within two weeks he had constructed his first wheel. By 1950 he had become a full-time potter producing mostly functional items. His early works were done in a local red clay; he later expanded to stoneware and porcelain.
In 1996 Michael McDowell shared these remarks about his deceased mentor: “Back in the ‘50’s Lou was participating in national competitions/exhibitions (Syracuse Nationals, 1956, for example) at a time when functional pieces were still the main thrust of what was being shown at these events. Although he was usually accepted into these shows, he was rarely a prize winner. Then the emphasis in jurying began to change, and the work he was doing was no longer making the cut. As he told me his story, he decided to try to make a piece for competition based on his impression of what they were now looking for. He entered this piece in a show that was being held somewhere in Florida, I believe, and his piece won first prize. That was the last competition he ever entered. He went back to doing the work that was meaningful to him, profoundly simple and functional pottery.”
The Whatcom County Museum of History and Art in downtown Bellingham, Washington mounted a retrospective exhibition of the pottery of Louis Mideke. Michael McDowell provided these works concerning the exhibition: “This exhibit has the finest selection of Lou’s work I’ve seen. Perhaps even more significant are the many testimonials and personal anecdotes that adorn the walls of the exhibit space. These, and the very fact of this exhibit nearly ten years after his death are clear and instructive evidence of the kind of deep and lasting impression a simple potter can have on a community.”
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