Middleton — Joan Jockwig Pearson Watkins was born in New York City in 1924. She was a cellist until she decided to attend the colleges of fine arts and education at Syracuse University from 1941 to 1945. During two years of teaching general art subjects in Southern California she became so intrigued with the medium of clay that she returned to New York to specialize in ceramics at the world famous New York State College of Ceramics located at Alfred University. There, in 1949, after two years of intense study she received her Master’s Degree. She operated her own studio in Alfred until 1951 when she was brought to San Francisco to head the Ceramic Department at the California School of Fine Arts where she remained until August 1957.
In 1954 she received the first grant to be awarded in ceramics by the Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation. With it she did research and a photographic document in color on American Folk Pottery, tools and techniques, from museums and collections on the East Coast of the United States.
In 1955 she was one of six Americans to be awarded an Italian Government Fellowship for advanced independent research in Italy. At the same time she received a Fulbright Travel Grant. In Italy, in addition to her ceramic studies she made a photographic document of all kinds of artists and craftsman-pictures of them and their work.
During her ten years as a professional ceramist she has been a frequent prize-winner. Her work was also selected for exhibition in France and to tour European museums and galleries from 1955 to 1957 under the auspices of the United States Information Agency. She creates her own glazes and clays and often incorporates the use of bare clay into design of a piece. Since September 1957 she has been teaching ceramics at San Jose Junior College, she continues to make pottery and also conducts her own weekly half hour television program on KQED Channel 9 (San Francisco) called Design Workshop.
In 1962 she married C. Malcolm Watkins, Curator of Everyday Life in Early America at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, who died in 2001. Beginning in the 1960s Joan served as a consultant to the museum, helping to design special exhibit cases of Ben Owen’s North Carolina pottery, handmade corn husks dolls, Asian immigrant items, among others. She and Malcolm scoured California to find a Gold Rush era kitchen which was disassembled and reconstructed in the museum furnished with period artifacts they collected in California. She was also instrumental in improving the objects sold in the Museum Shops at the Smithsonian, making them relate more directly to the museum collections.
She and Malcolm were residents of Tomales, California, Reston, Virginia and Middleton, Massachusetts. She was a donor to the Essex Museum, the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, Old Sturbridge Village (where Malcolm was the first curator), and the Smithsonian Institution. In addition to her activity in American craftsman she was actively interested in Japan and Japanese culture, traveling there with a small group from the Boston Japan Society. Her home furnishings included several tonsu chest, a Japanese screen, pottery and silk paintings.
ARRANGEMENTS: Her funeral service will be held in the Peterson-O’Donnell Funeral home, 167 Maple St. (Rte 62), Danvers, Tuesday, April 2nd, at 1 P.M. Relatives and friends invited. Burial in Oakdale Cemetery, Middleton. Visiting hours omitted. In lieu of flowers, expressions of sympathy may be made in Joan’s memory to the Smithsonian Institution, Contribution Receipt Center, P.O. Box 9016, Pittsfield, MA 01202-9016. To share a memory or offer a condolence, please visit www.odonnellfuneralservice.com.