Sep 23, 2013
01:23 PMStyle & Design
Guy Wolff's Mastery of Garden Pot Design Depends on His Litchfield County Roots
(page 1 of 3)
Here’s my theory and you can take it or leave it. I contend that Guy Wolff would never have become the Superstar of the Flowerpot if he had set up shop anywhere else but Litchfield County.
I allege that it is because this neighborhood is such a horticultural hotbed that Guy Wolff’s work took a U-turn straight down the primrose path. And I’m not the only one to take this stance. Suzanne Staubach said as much in her hot-off-the-press biography, “Guy Wolff: Master Potter in the Garden” (University Press of New England, 2013), generously photographed by Joseph Szalay.
And Guy Wolff also agrees, judging from the text. If Tina Dodge had not waltzed into his pottery and planted the seed, he wouldn’t be earning his living throwing flowerpots today. However, he would definitely be a potter. In fact, he had an inkling from an early age that some sort of “hands-on” craft was in his stars.
“I knew I would be doing something with my hands when I was 4 or 5 years old,” he asserted in a recent interview. “Everybody around me was making things.”
Indeed, he had a unique childhood, and those early influences are traced in detail in Ms. Staubach’s biography. Not only was Alexander Calder almost family (Mr. Wolff’s mother spent part of her pregnancy as a guest in the Calder house), but Walter Gropius, Laszlo Moholy-Nagy and György Kepes of the New Bauhaus School of Design were colleagues of his father, Robert Jay Wolff. Marcel Breuer was his uncle. These and other creative types were fixtures floating in and out of Mr. Wolff’s home during the boy’s formative years.
Needless to say, he was influenced by the brilliance of their work. That said, he also realized that he would not follow in his father’s footsteps as an abstract Impressionist painter. “My father worked two-dimensionally. But I instinctively knew that I’d be working three-dimensionally. Paper is meaningless to me. I have to crumple it up for it to have meaning,” he says.
The fact that Guy Wolff’s mother was a potter undoubtedly steered his direction, although he was not particularly receptive during his early years. More to the point, an early trip to Sturbridge Village subliminally guided his path. “I was 8 years old when my mom took me to Sturbridge and I noticed that everything was beautifully proportioned and felt more comfortable. Everything had symmetry, proportion and grace.”
But still, he didn’t see himself as a potter. “It was the last thing I thought that I would be doing,” he admits.