Orton Cone Box Show

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The Orton Cone Box Show [7] is a biennial ceramic art exhibition for small work that started in Indiana, United States and is now held in Kansas, United States. It is open to submissions from across the world. The show's title is taken from the constraint on submissions, which must fit within the box in which Orton's pyrometric cones are shipped, 3" x 3" x 6" (approx. 75 mm x 75 mm x 150 mm.)

Submissions are adjudicated by up to four recognized members of the ceramics community within the United States, and exhibited during following year's the conference of the US National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts.

Dates, Locations and Jurors[edit]

1975, Purdue University - Ellen Canavier
1977, Kansas University - Marj Peeler, Richard Peeler, Bill Bracker
1979, Kansas University - John Ground, Glenn Rand, Jim Nabors, Bill Bracker[1]

1994, Baker University - Bill Hunt, Margaret Carney, Yoshiro Ikeda
1996, Baker University - Karen Karnes, Judy Schwartz, Brad Schweiger
1998, Baker University - Michael Simon, Harris Deller, Anna Calluori Holcomb[2] 2000, Baker University - Nina Hole, Jeff Oestreich, Richard Notkin
2002, Baker University - Mitsuo Shoji, Wilfredo Torres, Inge Balch[3]
2004, Baker University - Janet Mansfield, Phil Rogers, Inge Balch[4]
2006, Baker University - Steven Hill, Inge Balch[5]
2008, Baker University - Bede Clarke, John Neely, Inge Balch[6]
2010, Lawrence Arts Center - Peter Callas, Malcom Davis, Inge Balch[7]
2012, Lawrence Arts Center - Tom Coleman, Patti Warashina, Inge Balch

The beginning[edit]

As a professor of ceramics at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana, Bill Bracker had access to all of the ceramic department facilities, but he had a studio and salt kiln at his home because he wanted his students to use all the space they could in the university studio and kilns. One of the neighborhood kids, Jerry Evans, expressed an interest in pottery, so Bill allowed Jerry a limited amount of kiln space in exchange for helping keep the studio clean, performing other studio "grunt" work, and helping to fire the salt kiln. Jerry maximized his firing space by making tiny pots, much like the small draw rings he helped Bill make and pull from each firing. After just a few firings, Jerry proudly showed Bill a cigar box full of his miniature pots...enough pieces for an entire exhibit in one small box! Bill immediately thought of all the times he himself had stored draw rings, fired mud dauber nests, used cones, and small ceramic pieces in cone boxes. The cigar box full of Jerry's pots also reminded him of his ceramic "sketchpads," which were actually four shadow boxes filled with miniature versions of different forms and styles of his pottery.

In 1974, while doing a workshop at Drake University, Bill was encouraged by Lee Ferber and Richard Peeler, fellow ceramic teachers, to pursue the idea of a juried show for miniature ceramic pieces. A potter can have great slides of a not-so-great pot or lousy slides of a great pot, but a juror may never know until the actual piece is seen in person. A show of miniatures would be a perfect opportunity for a juror to adjudicate the actual pieces while still keeping shipping and handling costs down for artist entries. The question of size limitation was almost a foregone decision because of Bill's history with storing little pots in the Orton Standard Cone Boxes, a 3" x 3" x 6" box that potters quickly accumulated in almost every studio. Although he could get some support for the show through Purdue University (where he still taught), he knew he needed additional sponsorship. Approaching Orton Ceramic Foundation was the next logical step, both for sponsorship as well as approval for the size designation. The proposal was funded and the Orton Cone Box Show became a reality in 1975.

Shows from the 1990s[edit]

The show experienced a period of inactivity following the departure of Bill Bracker from Kansas University shortly after the third show. In 1993 Inge Balch, Professor of Art at Baker University, Kansas, asked Bill for his blessing to revive the show.

With the support of both Orton and the University the fourth show opened in 1994 at the Holt-Russell Gallery at Baker University. Now open to entries from across the global artists from several countries exhibited. The jurors were Bill Hunt, Margaret Carney and Yoshiro Ikeda. Subsequently the Cone Box Show has become a biennial event. The 2010 International Cone Box Show premiered at the Lawrence Arts Center in October. In the following spring (2011), it was shown at the 2011 NCECA [8] conference in Tampa, Florida.


  1. ^ Bracker, William and Nabors, James J. "Third National Cone Box Show: Proceedings" 1980, ISBN 0-8403-2181-3
  2. ^ [1] Biles, Jan "S Competition" March 5, 1998
  3. ^ [2]"Sculptures in international ceramics show designed to fit inside small containers" March 17, 2002
  4. ^ [3] Paget, Mindie "Ceramics show proves good things fit in small packages" March 28, 2004
  5. ^ [4] Rombeck, Terry and Lattin, Patrick "For these ceramic artists, it’s a small world after all" March 19, 2006
  6. ^ [5] J-W Staff Reports "Baker’s cone box show makes big impact" March 30, 2008
  7. ^ [6] Lawrence Arts Center "Past Exhibitions, 2010"

External links[edit]