STANGL DESIGNER KAY HACKETT ENTHRALLS CROWD
AT "MEET ME AT THE KILN" PROGRAM
DURING "AUTUMN FEST" IN FLEMINGTON, NEW JERSEY
As most of you know, noted Stangl designer Kay Hackett was our guest at the Hill-Fulper-Stangl Potteries Museum on October 13. This program was part of the "Autumn Fest" celebration that also including reenactments of the Lindbergh kidnapping trial, other historic and fun events, pumpkin carving and the appearance of Son of Lassie! Flemington was "standing-room-only" as townspeople exclaimed that they had never seen so many people jammed into one square mile!! The crisp clear skies and scented fall breezes were an elixir that heightened the mood of all who traveled to Flemington.
The Kay Hackett program was announced nationally
in many antiques trade publications as well as local papers, such as the
Near the entrance to the museum building, Martin Stangl's 50 year old rose bush was still blooming and laden with perfect velvety old-fashioned red roses!! I am convinced that his presence was felt, but Kay was clearly the STAR of the Museum event!! The normal "Meet Me at the Kiln" program conducted by Rob Runge would have included an historic slide show and walking tour but was pre-empted by an enthralled and excited crowd who wanted to see Kay's magic on a decorating wheel. We provided her with an authentic early 20th century decorating wheel for the demonstration.
The Flemington Economic Development Commission provided attractive signage for all the events of the Autumn Fest, including the Kay Hackett "Meet Me at the Kiln" program.
Before the program could begin, Rob had to run electric cable over the roof from the only available outdoor electric outlet!
The program was scheduled for 12 noon to 3 p.m., but in reality lasted over five hours. Kay arrived at 11 a.m. and already folks were milling around so she entertained them by "doodling" on a plate and continued demonstrating her craft until well after 4:30 p.m. Kay was tired and a bit hoarse but made it clear that she was having a ball!! And her audience was certainly taken with her charm as well! Many thanks to Kay's daughter-in-law Mary for her help and assistance and most of all for being Kay's chauffeur!
Kay gladly autographed Stangl Dinnerware books for her bevy of fans all during her program!
Our program opened with an introduction by Museum Coordinator Liz Kramar who always delights a crowd with her wit and enthusiasm. Then Rob Runge, Museum Director held the group's interest with stories from the potteries' history beginning in 1814 right up to Stangl's closing in 1978.
Above: Museum Coordinator, Liz Kramar (far right), welcomes all and introduces Kay Hackett (seated center) to the gathering crowd. So compelling was Kay's program, it drew folks from across town and across the country in every form of conveyance available!
Rob addresses the crowd with spellbinding tales of Fulper and Stangl days gone
Kay was introduced and began her demonstration. A work station complete with the decorating wheel had been placed on the lawn in the shadow of Stangl's original kiln chimneys. She was protected from the sun by the branches of a glorious spreading Japanese Red Maple, a tree planted on the property by Martin Stangl 50 years ago when he created a park-like setting on the grounds for the enjoyment of outlet visitors.
Kay explains the finer points of her career as Stangl's top designer.
Every Stangl motif was applied by first stenciling the design on the plate, as demonstrated here by Kay. Very fine powdered charcoal was "pounced" on a perforated stencil, leaving a charcoal outline of the motif on the plate.
After the motif was stenciled, the underglaze colors were then applied. Although Stangl originally used red-bodied ware with hand-carved designs, for this program Kay used plain white bisque blanks and replicated the carved outlines with hand-painting.
Immediately, her talent, sense of humor and the sheer magic that she wields at the end of her brush were evident. The crowd, which swelled to 40 or more at any one time during the afternoon, was drawn like a magnet and necks craned to see what Kay was doing. Often applause interrupted the air when Kay would seemingly initiate a difficult maneuver. Her response each time was: "Oh, that was the easy part."
Kay demonstrates how wide bands of color were applied.
Kay recreated patterns that she had designed nearly 50 years ago. She explained: "It's like riding a bicycle, you just never forget how." Among her old tried and true designs that proved to be the backbone of Stangl's success, she demonstrated how she would decorate Thistle, Blueberry, Ginger Cat, Yellow Tulip designs on fresh bisque blanks.
Kay signed and dated the back of each piece she created that day.
All of Kay's creations were glazed and fired and preserved by the Museum.
Four of the plates produced by Kay on 10/13/01!
Our own personal thrill came when she pulled out a 13" bisque blank and flawlessly executed a free-hand design of two blue birds on branches. Kay had designed this pattern especially for us nearly two years ago when we were deciding which pattern to use for our museum floor medallion. Until now, we had only been able to enjoy it as a rendering on paper. Now we had a very special Kay Hackett Original in plate form. She very sweetly inscribed the back with "Stangl Museum, October 13, 2001" and signed it for us. Words cannot express the emotion that welled up upon seeing this gift!
Kay's original sketch for the Hill-Fulper-Stangl Museum from which she created the 13" plate.
without a stencil, Kay sketched the Bluebirds motif freehand, exhibiting great talent. But you can see by her expression that an exceeding amount of concentration was required.
After decorating, Kay inscribed the back of the Bluebirds plate to Museum...
and presented the completed plate to Museum directors Diana Bullock and Rob Runge.
Front and back of the fired and glazed Bluebirds 13" plate created for the Museum by Kay!
For those of you who have not been in the company of Kay nor who have seen her work, you missed a fabulous opportunity to spend the afternoon with her. Our guest book boasted of nearly 200 visitors that day, some coming from as far as Indiana, Illinois, and Oklahoma, two of which sported Stangl surnames!! There was even a surprise visit by Kay's "long-lost" niece Susan who she had not seen in over twenty years.
Susan Kastner still lives in Kay's hometown of Batavia, New York. A friend of Susan's received an announcement for our event and showed it to her. The gal was astonished to see the picture of Kay and brother George in 1922 which was printed in the announcement. That was all it took to convince her to make the trip all the way to New Jersey. What a happy surprise for Kay and a family-reunion to boot!
Besides the "paparazzi" lined up in front of Kay, at least four people were on hand to videotape Rob's program and Kay's demonstration. If all goes well, we intend to edit and condense them to make a film about Kay's life and designs. We will keep you posted on this project.
In addition to Kay's outdoor decorating demonstration, a display featuring a variety of Kay's original samples and hard to find Stangl dinnerware and artware patterns was installed inside in the Hill-Fulper-Stangl Museum kiln. Even Kay herself was impressed with this display and insisted on taking her own snapshots of it! This display of Kay Hackett's work as well as a cabinet full of Stangl Pottery Bird figurines will continue to be displayed for some time to come.
Until next time, happy "Stangling" from your Flemington correspondent!!