Frederick Walrath 1871–1921

Frederick Walrath grew up in the small town of Jasper in upstate New York and was a teacher for several years prior to taking his career, and life, in a new direction. In 1901 he enrolled in the first class of the New York State School of Clay-Working and Ceramics at Alfred University under director Charles Fergus Binns. Walrath attended for three years with Binns as his mentor, who instructed him on every aspect of making ceramics. While a student, he exhibited his work as part of Alfred University’s display at the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition and received a bronze medal.

Walrath’s early works often featured carved designs, but over time he developed a style all his own. After leaving Alfred in 1904, he taught briefly at the College of Education at the University of Chicago, and even had a brief stint at Grueby Pottery, prior to accepting the position of professor of modeling and pottery at the Mechanics Institute in Rochester, New York in 1908. It was there that he remained for ten years, perfecting his conventionalized designs and matte glazes in muted hues of green, coral, blue, and yellow. His pottery was often lauded by critics for its harmonious combination of color and design. Walrath’s work can best be compared to that of Arthur Baggs at Marblehead, which is perhaps no surprise given that both men studied under Binns at Alfred and remained in touch afterward.

Walrath exhibited his work at important venues such as the Albright Gallery in Buffalo, the annual exhibitions of the New York Society of Keramic Arts and the National Society of Craftsmen, and the Art Insitute of Chicago. He left the Mechanics Institute in 1918 to take a job as the ceramic chemist at the Newcomb College Pottery in New Orleans. Sadly, he died just three years later after falling ill while on summer leave, cutting short what would surely have been a long and illustrious career.

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