Hannibal native continues Frankoma Pottery tradition
Dennis Glascock, a native of Hannibal, is the owner of Frankoma Pottery Company. A year ago he expanded the business from online only to a brick and mortar store in Glenpool, Okla. Photo by Mary Lou Montgomery
MARY LOU MONTGOMERY
In 1933, John N. Frank, a graduate of the Chicago Art Institute and a part-time instructor in ceramic art at Oklahoma University, opened a business in Norman, Okla., which he named Frankoma Potteries.
By 1935, sales outlets in 36 states were carrying Frankoma products.
In December 1936, the Sayre, Oklahoma Sun newspaper reported: “Mr. Frank has demonstrated an age-old truth, what man can imagine, he can accomplish. The growth of Frankoma Pottery in the past three years has been nothing short of phenomenal.”
Thus began the legacy of John N. Frank and his pottery company. Five years after launching the company, he relocated his business to Sapulpa, Okla., along Route 66, and his unique pottery designs and glazes gained international accolades.
Today, collectors worldwide seek his pottery pieces, as others might covet baseball cards. The name Frankoma is legendary, in Oklahoma and beyond.
Mr. Frank died in 1973; his wife, Grace Lee Bowman Frank, died in 1996, and his daughters, Donna Ruth and Joniece Frank, passed in 2020 and 2015, respectively.
Later, new owners stepped in to keep the Frankoma legacy alive.
In 2012, Hannibal native Dennis Glascock purchased the company’s name and molds, but not the building in Sapulpa.
“When I bought the company (the molds) were probably headed for a museum or a dumpster. Oklahoma University wanted to acquire the molds for their museum, but they wanted the molds for free.”
“I took (the company) exclusively online in 2012 and kept it online for 10 years,” Glascock said. “I was working at a job (as a chemical engineer) at the time; I retired from Phillips 66 five years ago.”
He said the former Frankoma property in Sapulpa, located on an industrial portion of Route 66 where tourists generally don’t travel, wasn’t a good fit for a modern retail property. Instead, he purchased land in nearby Glenpool, Okla., and a year ago opened a brick and mortar business along busy Highway 75.
“We do things different than in the past,” he said. “I’m doing half new items and half vintage items, 20 to 90 years old.
“There is a lot of supply (of vintage Frankoma pottery) available in this area,” he said. “People offer it to me, and I (already) had a large collection of my own.”
The new facility is set up to create two types of pottery.
First, is slip casting. Glascock compares this procedure with making a hollow chocolate bunny for Easter. “We use plaster molds, pour slip (liquid clay) into the mold, then trim it and take it out as greenware. We fire it in the kiln at 2000 degrees, take it out of the kiln and spray glaze it,” three coats, “then let it dry, fire it again and we have finished pieces.”
The second type of pottery is created with an hydraulic press. “The press smashes clay into flat pieces,” he said, such as for a plate or trivet.
In recent weeks, the company has been producing Halloween items, such as pumpkins, and witch shoes and hats.
A popular collection was introduced in September: Tiki mugs, reminiscent of designs sold during Frankoma’s past.
Glascock is working with Wendy Cevola, an internationally renowned tiki artist. In September, Frankoma introduced a series of tiki mugs, based on an old Frankoma little salt and pepper shaker. Cevola recreated that early design into big mugs, which were produced in various colors, at 25 mugs per color. The stock of these numbered mugs quickly sold out.
“We have two other artists making new items for us,” he said, including Cindy Cushing.
“Her family was the Rydings Family that ran Rozart Pottery in Excelsior Springs. A Missouri company, she has created a half a dozen items for us in the last few years, including a miniature bison.
“She has also made a little titmouse bird, a mermaid, a burro and other artsy things.”
A third artist is Orville Knight, of Bartlesville, who helps with pottery classes at Hopestone, a cancer survivor center.
“Orville designed for Keepsake Candles in Bartlesville; he designs with an Indian motif, like Yankee Candles. He has given us a couple of new pieces to make into pottery as well.”
“The name Frankoma means a lot,” Glascock said. “The most famous thing about Oklahoma is Will Rogers. I like to say that Frankoma is right after that. It has nation-wide recognition.”
“Not too many people get the opportunity to own a company that is nationally recognized. We’re trying to have product out here (in Glenpool), but also take care of collectors. The last thing I want to do is hurt those collectors by reissuing the same things” from the past.
Even though his store is now open in Glenpool, the online business continues. “We do a lot of sales that way, wholesale, commercial orders, customizations, coasters, trivets, we can do that too.”
Glascock, the son of Leta Glascock and the late Malcolm Glascock, grew up in the Hydesburg Church neighborhood, and attended grade school at Pettibone, and later at Oakwood.
In high school, “Mr. (Basil M.) Lister was my math teacher. He was outstanding. He was one of my major inspirations to go into math and science.”
Glascock attended Hannibal-LaGrange College for two years, then earned a bachelor’s degree from Rolla. Following that, he transferred to the University of Missouri, where he earned his master’s degree in chemical engineering.
“My brother Mike lived in Columbia, so I could live there rent free,” Dennis said. Mike retired at the end of last year from the University as a nuclear physicist, research reactor.
Dennis Glascock worked for Phillips 66, first in Bartlesville, Okla., then Ponca City, Okla., and finally Houston, Texas.
“In many respects, (reviving Frankoma pottery) is a give back to the state of Oklahoma. My wife and I greatly enjoyed our years in Oklahoma.”
Tiki mugs, in their greenware state, await glazing. Frankoma Pottery recreated an early design into big mugs, which were produced in various colors, at 25 mugs per color. The stock of these numbered mugs quickly sold out. Photo by Mary Lou Montgomery
The Frankoma kilns are located in a separate building outside of the new bricks and mortar store, which was completed a year ago at 17117 S. Union Ave., Glenpool, Okla., 74033.
This exclusive, limited edition vase was designed for Frankoma Pottery Company by Orville Knight, Five Civilized Tribes Museum artist. Photo by Mary Lou Montgomery