Paula Colton Winokur (1935–2018)

In October 2017, Watershed Center for the Ceramic Arts honored Paula as a “Watershed Legend” at a moving presentation in Philadelphia. The following remembrance is excerpted and arranged by Winokur’s friend and colleague Nancy Selvin, from her tribute to Paula at the ceremony.

Paula Winokur. White Ledge with Bowl, 2008. Photo courtesy of AccessCeramics Flickr page. Paula Winokur was an extraordinary artist; climate change and environmental research were at the heart of her work. Paula cared. Not just about what she made but about what other people made, too. She cared about humanity, about the future. Paula was at once kind, thoughtful, and knowledgably outspoken.

In the 1950s as a student at Tyler School of Art, Paula was introduced to porcelain clays by Professor Rudy Staffel. In the sixty years or so that followed, she went on to transform porcelain clays into an amazing body of work. Notable were the monumental, jagged, and nuanced works shaped from huge slabs of porcelain that serve as metaphors for the calving glaciers and the melting icebergs she saw on her travels in Iceland and Greenland. The clarity of her vision and the intuitive handling of her material are tactile reminders of our eroding environment.

Paula was a delightful conversationalist. In an interview, she laughingly explained:

“Yes, my work has been about nature since the first landscape box…in the mid-80s. […] Sometimes I wish that I could do something else, but I can’t. […] Porcelain is…usually thought of as delicate and transparent. But as the primary clay from which all other clays are derived, it comes from the earth—pure, white, durable. Fired, it can resemble both snow and ice. […] Because of these [rugged] qualities…[porcelain] has allowed me to explore issues in the landscape without making literal interpretations…but rather to present…ideas lurking in my memory.[i]

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