Leland Dale Shank – A tribute to a local artist

Submitted by
Joe Winston, Friend

Photo courtesy of Charlie Hutchins
June 26, 2014 6:32 p.m.

There is a magic in the hands and of one who takes the substance of the earth and shapes it into objects of beauty.  There is a magic in the heart of one who takes what he knows, learns what he doesn’t, invents what he needs and freely shares his hard won knowledge with others.

This is the loving legacy of Lee Shank.

Lee Shank
Lee Shank

Born in Laurens, Iowa November 10, 1938 to Orville Shank and Cecil Weeks died June 21, 2014 in Jacksonville at the Edgewood nursing home.

Lee is survived by his wife of 41 years Dorothy Hutchins of Fernandina Beach, Florida. Theirs was a marriage of complete partnership that included the pottery and creative arts business of Shank and Shank Pottery.  Over these past 41 years they attended together most of the top rated outdoor Art shows from the southern tip of Florida to northern New England and into the middle west. He was a member of the Island Art Association for 30 years.

Lee is also surved by sister Melody.

Lee graduated from the Laurens High School in Iowa growing up in farm country learning lessons of how to utilize everything around him. Nothing was ever to go to waste.

In High School Lee was an outstanding student along with holding down full time employment. Lee played football and was Co-Captain of Football team, Football All-Conference Honorable Mention, Freshman class Vice President, Junior Class President; President of Student Council; Assistant Shop Teacher 2, 3, 4; Adult Night School Teacher 3.4; Wind Tunnel 1st Place Science Fair.

Lee went on to Iowa Northern University for 3 years at the Teachers College in Cedar Falls, Iowa.

In 1962, he went into the Army as a draftsman and taught pottery and wood shop on the bases he was assigned.  Lee always said that he was the last person to hold the job description of art teacher in the Army.  While stationed in Washington, D.C., he was an assistant to Teruo Hara teaching at the Corcoran Museum and Art School.

He also worked in the studio of Toshiko Takaezu.

His passion was working with clay and all of its possibilities.  In pottery making inventions of new tools and new techniques is a necessity.  This is an area that Lee excelled to the point of his being called a Studio Genius. Not just by a few local potters but by nationally acclaimed artists and potters.

DOUG JONES Studio potter; “Lee was an extraordinary ceramic artist with skills in design and true creativity.  Combined with his drive and genius for experimentation and invention, Lee was a nationally known potter who work is on display at museums and galleries in many parts of the country. He has developed a line of ceramic products that are sold nationwide through pottery suppliers.

There are potters that use tools and techniques that make the life of the studio potters better and have no idea where they came from  This is the way Lee saw his work.”

REDDICK, Florida: Reddick has a History Museum.  In part of the museum there is the Lee Shank collection.  Lee had a pottery studio in Reddick for a few years and was the largest employer in town. When they built the museum they asked members of the town to help create the Lee Shank section by loaning personal pottery by Lee Shank.

Lee did workshop in many places around the state but his favorite was the Fernandina Beach High School.

HOWARD AXNER Axner Ceramic Supply Co. “Lee Shank is an extraordinary ceramic artist with magnificent skills in design and true creativity.  That, combined with his drive and genius for experimentation and invention, results in ceramic objects of splendid beauty and function.  Nothing captures this more than his ever-evolving collection. His genius in products that Lee shares with other ceramic artists that dramatically enhance our creative process, The Grabber Pad, Bead Rollers, Lee’s Soup (a clay product), and so much more.  It has always been a joy whenever Lee dropped by the Axner studios over the past decades..  Every time excited to share his latest invention and creations. It is an honor to be his associate and friend.”

JOHN TILTON Ceramic Artist “There are some people who you feel have done so much for you that you have no way to repay them except to become a better person, and I feel that way about Lee.  I hope that I have been able to repay his generosity to others.

What is life but to Dream and Do and Share?

A memorial service will be held in St Peters Episcopal Church Sunday at 2 p.m. June 29, 2014

Memorial donation can be sent to: Barnabas in Fernandina Beach

Potters for Peace, c/o Abby Silver U S Director, P O Box 2214, Boulder, CO 80306

Editor’s Note: I had the pleasure of getting to know Lee after writing  an article about Lee Shank.     Later, I was invited to a birthday celebration at the Island Art Association. I was struck by Lee’s remarkable life. He was a humble,  man who generously shared his talents with many of his peers. They spoke at his birthday celebration, and they truly loved the man. This obituary put together by Lee’s friends reads like a story, and we wish to share with you.

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Lana Mullis-Bly
Lana Mullis-Bly (@guest_19966)
9 years ago

Living next door to Lee for the last 11 years brought a deep appreciation of his talents. My husband and I called him Proffessor Gadget as he was always showing us his inventions. He was quick to smile, tell a joke or two, and be a delight. He carried a small timer in his pocket to remind himself how long he would talk. This always brought a smile as he often reset the timer!
I will surely miss him.
Lee, teach the heavens to throw pots.

Patrick Leary
Patrick Leary (@guest_20109)
9 years ago

I was fortunate to know Lee and (per his many testimonials), was always impressed with his creativity and inventiveness. Always cheerful and curious, he was a rare pleasure to converse with. Lee made his mark on the world – not something to said for the majority of us. Rest in peace good fellow.

Rick Ewart (Ian Ritchie Stewart)
8 years ago

No-one! No-one! No-one, on this ball of spinning clay has ever lived a more giving, humble and genuinely loving life than Lee Shank! The man’s passion for sharing his knowledge and skill with others will never be matched! He loved to tell a joke, to showoff a glaze, to push a button, to spoof a friend! Lee Shank was a working man and worked under an ethic that few can understand and none could match! His demand for perfection was pounded by raw flesh into the clay he wedged, the pain of it’s production would have crippled every-man! Desperately, he remained at the wheel of life, a viking of a man! Till tha last cone leveled, Lee Shank stood the watch of life, learning, exploring, crafting, sharing with us all his marvelous loves! May his soul find it’s final rest in blue gumbo! Thank You, Thank You and Thank You fond friend!!! See Ya on Tha Beach!

Penny Guerra
Penny Guerra (@guest_29628)
8 years ago

Would someone please contact me ? I am Lee’s niece from Iowa. please !
My name is Penny and my email is [email protected]
my no. is 712-301-5411