Karl Martz & Becky Brown in the 1930's


Click on any photo below for a larger version and explanation.

1930-33: Karl's Formal Education

Karl attended Indiana University (I.U.), Bloomington, from 1930-1933, graduating with a Bachelor's Degree in chemistry. He later said "I was taking chemistry at I.U. because they did not have enough art at that time for me to major in art there. I took all the art courses I.U. had." At this time, Karl's parents lived in Bloomington, Indiana, where his father was on the faculty of the School of Education at I.U. During college at I.U., Karl was a resident at the Delta Chi fraternity. (Karl had no interest in being a fraternity member, but his father regretted not having been a fraternity member and insisted that Karl have this experience.) Bloomington is only about 20 miles from the heart of Brown County.

In the summer of 1931, while in college at Indiana University, Karl accompanied his father to Ohio State University for the summer quarter. There he took classes in watercolor and ceramic art. He was surprised and delighted to realize that they actually made pottery, rather than merely reading books about pottery. One bowl survives that was evidently made during this first summer of work in ceramics (click on image at right).

"In summer of 1932 the Griffith Pottery in Nashville called on me to help with faulty glaze formulas. I returned to I.U. in the fall to complete my B.A. in degree Chemistry. In spring of 1933, I returned to Griffith Pottery for the summer. I was the gofor, plus working on glazes. I mixed slip with a hoe in a wood box, helped fire the kiln and threw pots on an electric potter's wheel that a local man had made out of a cream separator. I lived in a room in the old house, part of which was the pottery workshop. I ate in the old Nashville House dining room across the street. The Griffiths went on vacation and left me in charge of the pottery. I made scores of different sized serving bowls for the Nashville House in exchange for my meals. These were clunky with sharp chippable lips -- the best I could throw then. I felt quite important eating at the Nashville House and supporting myself in this fashion. I was 21." (From a letter Karl wrote to his grandson Eli Martz in 1995.)

After graduating in 1933, Karl returned to Ohio State for a year of graduate work in ceramic art (although he did not complete a degree there).

1934-35: Apprenticeship at Brown County Pottery

Karl's "formal professional career began in 1934, when he became an apprentice artist-potter at the Brown County Pottery in Nashville, Indiana" (Retrospective catalog, 1977). "The pot shop was equipped with an old Denver Fire Clay Kiln and a wheel or two. The people who ran it were having trouble, and when they heard I had been to Ohio State, they asked me to help out. I went to work for them, but it was the blind leading the blind. After a year, I decided I'd rather do it on my own." (The Studio Potter, June 1991, page 46.)

It was the depression, and barter was more common than money. Karl arranged for room and board in the Nashville House, an Inn across the street from the Brown County Pottery. In return, he made dinnerware for use in the restaurant.

1935-36: Marriage, Chewink at Stoddard Camp

On January 30, 1935, Karl Martz and Becky Brown were married in a small ceremony at Karl's parents' residence, 507 South Jordan Avenue, Bloomington, Indiana. (Wedding announcement.) Their first residence was a single room in a house owned by Musette Stoddard, who operated a summer camp. Early in the morning after their wedding, someone banged on the door. It was Becky's father, en route back to Mt. Vernon Indiana, checking that his daughter had satisfactory quarters.

When summer rolled around and the house was needed for the camp, Karl and Becky moved across the street to a two-room cabin on Town Hill, "Chewink", also owned by Stoddard. They lived in one room and worked in the other. This is where Karl built his first kiln (noted in his handwriting on a slide he gave Eric).

1936-37: The Batchfield Cabin


One day Karl and Becky were driving around in the vicinity of Nashville IN, and as dusk approached, they saw an inviting road leading down a hill. Even though it was almost dark, they couldn't resist exploring. At the bottom of the hill, illuminated by moonlight, was a charming cabin in the woods. It turned out to be available, and soon they moved to the Batchfield Cabin. Although they rented it, Karl, with the help of Becky's father, Edward Stinson Brown Sr., built an additional room onto the cabin to use as a ceramics shop. This became the first Karl Martz Studio.

1938-42: The Pink House

The well-known Indiana art collectors, Scott & Ellen Murphy, found Karl and Becky deep in the woods at the Batchfield Cabin. (Mr. Murphy was General Manager at an Ironworks in Marion, IN.) Scott insisted that they could never make a living in such a remote location, and was instrumental in their move to the Pink House in the town of Nashville (Indiana), a more accessible location. There, Scott provided a carpet and lumber so one room could be converted into a showroom with shelves. Scott also financed the installation of electricity, which supported a blower for Karl's kiln burner. Scott's friends in Marion sent a truckload of furniture since Karl and Becky had been renting "furnished" abodes. Later, Karl and Becky also rented the Green House, across the street, which became their residence. When someone came to the Pink House, Becky would put infant Eric into a crib with high railings, and run across the street to greet the potential customer. Even later, they rented the Mathis house in the center of Nashville and moved their showroom there.

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