If you haven't heard me tell the story, my name is a hybrid. My mom, a German, is named Antje (UNT-yah). My dad, a Turk, was named Aydin (EYE-din). When I was born, they combined the first syllables of their names to get mine (Ant + Ay = Antay). It was the 1960s. Don't judge them.
So if ever there was a collectible that should resonate for me, it is Tamac Pottery. Made between 1946 and 1972 in Perry, Oklahoma, Tamac was the brainchild of two couples: Leonard and Marjorie Tate and Allen and Betty MacCauley. Marjorie was a sculptor who had studied art at Brown University. Leonard (Lee) was a business major. They met in New York after WWII, and then Marjorie befriended Betty (who had studied ceramics). Her husband, Allen, was a mechanic. Somehow, the four of them got together and decided to move back to Oklahoma and start a pottery business. They bought a quonset hut and started designing modernist, ergonomic pottery wares that they called Tamac. Ta + Mac = Tamac.
For me, Tamac was an acquired taste. Pictures of it made me raise an eyebrow, and the glaze names -- Frosty Fudge?! -- didn't do much for me. But now that I am in the Southwest, where Tamac is more prevalent, I have had the chance to see it in person, and it has won me over. The shapes are innovative and eccentric, quirky and appealing. The glazes are unlike any other glazes of the period. They have an organic beauty if you have the patience for it. In other words, Tamac is the Zooey Deschanel of midcentury dinnerware.
A few months ago, I was fortunate to find a service for four in Frosty Fudge that looked virtually unused and included several serving pieces. It was at an antique shop in Dallas that did not have many modern items. They seemed eager to unload the set and offered me a 20% discount before I even asked. That pretty much got me hooked on Tamac. I started to learn more about it.
One of Tamac's early successes was a BBQ cup that integrated the handle into the form of the cup. While you pretty much need to be right handed to use it, the sculptural elegance of the form earned a US Patent. But the innovations didn't stop there. Look at this pitcher, for example:
The Tates and the MacCauleys also played with functionality of their forms. Look at this triangular decanter: The stopper serves double duty as a shot glass. The bubbly frothy glaze trim is the "frosty" in Frosty Fudge, a distinctive treatment you will find only on Tamac. I have yet to see two other glazes -- Butterscotch and Raspberry -- in person. I look forward to the day!
A note to the new Tamac collector (listen to the voice of experience!): While the Frosty glazes (Fudge and Pine) usually appear high fired and crisp, and the matte glazes (Avocado and Honey) appear more porous, they are all subject to crazing, which often darkens. While some collectors find this adds "character," others find it detracting. Be sure to inquire about the condition of items you see online if crazing is an issue for you.