Portrait of Lore Kramer from 1956

Brought to light

The Museum Angewandte Kunst in Frankfurt presents the oeuvre of ceramicist Lore Kramer.
by Fabian Peters | 8/7/2018

“Seventy years ago I developed a 30-year-long passion for ceramics,and everything here stems from those 30 years,” explains Lore Kramer, modestly referring to the exhibition Frankfurt’s MAK Museum Angewandte Kunst is now dedicating to her. Now aged 92, this ceramicist and college professor, who studied under some of the most important artists of then fledgling West Germany and subsequently set up the ceramics course at what is now Offenbach University of Art and Design, has largely been overshadowed by her husband, the architect Ferdinand Kramer – unjustifiably so, as the MAK’s director Matthias Wagner K has discovered. He retrieved the results of many decades of work from the artist’s basement, where the pieces had been languishing for some time, and with the active support of Lore Kramer and her daughter was able to launch an impressive retrospective.  

Lore Kramer did not have an easy time gaining her education: Driven by the desire to become a sculptor, she began a degree in fine art, but her father insisted that she learnt a trade first. The apprenticeship in masonry she subsequently started caused her great frustration, so she switched to ceramics. Her training as a potter in the immediate post-War years was often marked by deprivation, hardship and paternalism. However, once she was accepted into the workshop of Otto Lindig – previously the master craftsman at the Bauhaus ceramics studio – at the Hamburg State School of Art, the situation improved for Lore Kramer, or Lore Koehn as she was at the time. Here she was given a challenging, yet highly beneficial education. It was Lindig, in fact, who showed his student’s drawings to his former colleague at the Bauhaus, the sculptor Gerhard Marcks. Marcks then brought her to Cologne, where he had been living and working since 1950. He became her mentor while she attended Joseph Jaeckel’s metal sculpting class at Kölner Werkschulen, where she completed her studies.

Bottle of porcelain stoneware, glazed (1965-1980)

Two years after completing her degree, she became the director of the ceramics course at the Werkkunstschule Offenbach, a college of applied art. There she faced the huge challenge of not only teaching and designing the curriculum, but also setting up the training workshop – starting with the firing kilns – entirely from scratch. A large proportion of the works that are now being exhibited in the MAK were created, Lore Kramer says, to convey to her students the passion and the pleasure of working with ceramic material – and, of course, the endless variety of form that the material permits.

Glaze became one of her most important themes, and her vessels shine in delightfully intense blue or delicate green. The result always depends on the raw material, on the earths and metals that give the glaze its color, and on the firing process. “It’s all a big adventure,” says Lore Kramer, “you can experience tremendous joy but also such bitter disappointments.” Incidentally, the experimentation was not entirely without risks. “In the beginning we were still working with lead oxide,” Kramer recalls, “and a two times one of my former classmates sent a package of uranium oxide to Offenbach for me.” This produced glazes in a magnificently bold orange color.

Most of Lore Kramer’s designs remained one-offs, although she also designed a series of crockery for Waechtersbach: “During my maternity leave after the birth of my third child,” she recalls. Her husband contributed a typography for the numbers and letters, which he had discovered in the USA, and this adorned the various vessels. Nevertheless, the collection was not particularly successful. Lore Kramer thinks she knows why: “It was just a bit too out of the ordinary.”

Lore Kramer. Ich konnte ohne Keramik nicht leben.
Museum Angewandte Kunst
Schaumainkai 17
60594 Frankfurt
until August 26, 2018

Opening hours:
Tue., Thu.-Sun. 10-18 h
Wed. 10-20 h
Mon. closed

At the end of the exhibition, a charity auction will take place on August 31, 2018 at 6 p.m. in the museum, where about 40 works by Lore Kramer and her students will be put up for auction.  

Bottle of porcelain stoneware, glazed (1965-1980)
Lore Kramer in the island pottery on Juist (1950)