Frankoma Pottery

Frankoma Puma. Courtesy of eBay Seller

Frank Potteries - 1933:

Before it was Frankoma Pottery, the company was called Frank Potteries. In 1933 John Frank, teaching Art and Pottery at the University of Oklahoma, was inspired to use clay deposits from Oklahoma. With only a small kiln, a butter churn for mixing clay and jars for glazes, a pottery studio was started in Norman, Oklahoma. Grace Lee and John Frank worked together at Frank Potteries producing art pottery.

Move to Sapulpa:

The name of the company was changed in 1936 from Frank Potteries to Frankoma Pottery -- still using the Frank name, but including the last three letters from Oklahoma. It was in 1938 that the company moved to Sapulpa Oklahoma, west of Tulsa and about 110 miles from the city of Norman. Several months after the move, a fire destroyed the factory, the first of two fires to ravage the company.

Clays -- Ada to Sapulpa:

Clay from Ada Oklahoma was used until 1954, at which time the Franks switched to Sapulpa clay. Ada clay fired to a light beige color, whereas the Sapulpa clay fires to a reddish, terra cotta color.

Products Include Art to Dinnerware:

The signature line of Frankoma Pottery dinnerware, Wagon Wheel, was introduced in 1942. According to the Frankoma Family Collector's Association, "Frankoma became the pioneer in colored tableware, with designs in bold bas-relief, never before presented to the public".

Other very popular items include the political mugs and the Christmas plates.

Prices and Pictures

Joniece Frank:

Artist daughter Joniece Frank became President of the company when John Frank passed away in 1973 at the age of 69.

Another Fire, Frank Family Sells Business:

The factory was destroyed once again in 1983 at the peak of success.

And once again the factory was re-built, but never quite recovered the same success. After a bankruptcy, the family business was sold in 1991 to an out-of-state investor, H. Bernstein.

December 31, 2004 - July 1, 2005:

The company closed its doors December 31, 2004. There were hopes that the plant would reopen in a few months with a new buyer.

New Buyers
Pottery lovers didn't have to wait long, July 1 the good news ws that that Det and Crystal Merryman, of the Merrymac Collection, purchased the Frankoma Pottery Company. From The Journal Record, Merryman says: "The deal will close Friday (July 1) and we hope to have the factory store opened Saturday". The name will change to Frankoma Inc.

The plans to produce the Merrymac ceramic dog line at Frankoma never materalized, but the company continued the Frankoma line.

Once Again - New Owners August 2008:

The Frankoma plant closed again for six weeks during the summer of 2008 for the sale transition of new owners once again, reopening on August 18th. The new owner, Joe Ragosta, told the Tulsa World "I've always been a collector of antiques, and I recognize a great name when I see one."

Ragosta plans to bring back all the employees and move forward with the Frankoma brand collectibles.

Spring 2010 - May 2011:

Finance problems plagued the once popular Frankoma Pottery yet again and the company's doors were closed in the spring of 2010. Although it was thought and hoped that problems could be resolved, the chapter and book are now closed on the Sapulpa, OK company.

In May 2011 an auction was held that sold virtually everything but the molds and the Frankoma name. When, if and what value the names and molds have are yet to be seen.

The Bottom Line:

The look of Frankoma is an acquired taste, the southwestern feel and unusual colored glazes do not appeal to everyone. And although Frankoma Pottery has been around for many years, until recently it has not gained much respect with pottery enthusiasts. That trend has been changing and although average prices might never reach the values of some of the its northern cousins -- the Ohio potteries, prices have been increasing.

The combination of art pottery pieces, along with the southwestern appeal of the dinnerware, political mugs, souvenirs and even religious pieces has enough diversity to appeal to many pottery lovers.

Frankoma Pottery, One More Update

The pottery molds, name, and trademark were purchased in August 2012 and are now owned by an Oklahoma Limited Liability Company named FPC LLC. Sales will be limited to their Internet site plus selected antique malls.