To Joniece Frank, Frankoma pottery dishes are so much more than functional pieces.
“It’s the design,” she says. “It gives beauty to an object. You don’t need beauty, but it makes life a more perfect place to enjoy.”
John Frank, Joniece Frank’s father, was the originator of Frankoma pottery. She says that her father was an artist first, and that it why the beautiful pottery remains so popular.
John Frank began the ceramics department at OU, scouring for scraps to build studio equipment in dumpsters and alleys since he did not have a budget, Frank describes.
“Then, after studying a geological survey, he got to looking for clay to use. He found the beautiful red clay of Ada,” she says. “He started making pots with it and started the Frankoma company the next year.”
The family moved to Sapulpa in 1938 so that John Frank could focus on the company full-time. Throughout the years, and until Frank’s death in 1973, the studio suffered from multiple fires but was able to rebuild and get back on its feet each time.
“It is art, and it is loved by people. That’s why Frankoma is still alive. It’s been utterly destroyed twice, but it keeps coming back,” Frank says.
Since Frank and her sister, Donna, have retired, ownership of the company has changed several times, but Frank says that collectors will always seek the pottery.
Randy and Marianne McFarlin of Ada are just two of these collectors.
“I was exposed to Frankoma very early on,” Randy McFarlin says. “Growing up, we ate on Frankoma dishes, and when my family moved to Tulsa in 1960, my parents took us to the factory on Route 66.”
As he got older, he and his wife began to appreciate Frankoma in a new way.
“For us, it was the Ada connection. The clay was dug right here – right around the corner from our house,” McFarlin says.
McFarlin later served as president of the Frankoma Family Collectors Association, a close-knit group that first met in 1994. Held at First United Bank in Sapulpa, the reunion is part collectors gathering and part pottery sale.
“People love to talk to the Frank sisters and all those who have been a part of Frankoma over the years,” McFarlin says. “It keeps the interest and tradition alive.”
The show, open to the public, will be held Sept. 28 this year.
“This work talks to you,” Frank says. “It’s like how God designed man – with beauty and love. And I don’t believe that any one company has better represented the state of Oklahoma.”