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The San Francisco call. [volume] (San Francisco [Calif.]) 1895-1913, October 27, 1912, Image 3

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Persistent link: https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn85066387/1912-10-27/ed-1/seq-3/

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The San Francisco Sunday Call
Wooing Life Anew at the
Potters Wheel
Ida L. Brooks
HKRE wo have something new
under the sun! And it's rather
jolly to find it under our own
California ran. A place for sick
people to go for the purpose of getting
I well, sure enough, but to do so in part
by forgetting that there is anything
the matter with them.. •
No mental therapeutics about it.
Just the sort of thing anj- clever
hostess resorts to to make an uncom
fortable self-conscious guest enjoy
himself. She keeps him so busy being
entertained that he doesn't have time
to think about himself at all. So per
fectly simple is the idea it is a wonder
no one has thought of it before.
Over in Marin county, where pre
vails perennially a spirit of summer
and good times, on a road that winds up
the hills enticingly, Just beyond Fair
fax, you come upon a group of houses,
not pretentious in the least, hut in
teresting enough to make you remark,
"I wonder what that place is?"
It is the Arequipa sanatorium. Its
object is the care and treatment of in
cipient cases of tuberculosis among
women wage earners. And that isn't
all. As true a reply would be, "Oh,
that's the pottery!" . And you would
wonder all over again.
But there you have it- A sanatorium
and a pottery, driven tandem. The
pottery wouldn't be there if It weren't
for the sanatorium, and if it weren't
for the pottery the sanatorium couldn't
possibly be the success it is, for it
would completely lose its claim to
Whether he be an old fogy or a suf
ferer from every minutest wrinkle of
new thought, any one will admit, I
imagine, that brooding over miseries
doesn't constitute an easy way of get
ting rid of them.
' That, indeed, was the basic idea giv
ing birth to Areq.uipa, which peculiarly
sounding name means—begging your
pardon —place of rest. Hence the pot
tery idea.
For to outsider and insider alike the
pottery is the chief attraction. There
are at least five direct objects that the
pottery is designed to accomplish—
primarily it provides a means of divert
ing the mind of the patient from her
physical condition and keeps her in the
open air while at work; it makes possi
ble ft«r her to earn enough each day to
pay her expenses at the sanatorium; it
provides her with a new craft, whereby,
after being cured, she may find more
remunerative and healthful employ
ment than that in which she was
formerly engaged; for. being an art as
well as an industry, it gives her soul a
chance to develop and beautify her life;
lastly, it helps the institution financially.
The two pottery buildings stand high
est on the hillside and are protected by
the steep slope from strong currents of
air that might otherwise make build
ings of their construction impracticable.
For they are essentially fresh air build
ings, one of them being built exactly on
the Plan of a sleeping porch, walled in
or four feet at the bottom and
open above.
The patients are permitted to work
-only a few hours each day. and are
never permitted to continue if weary.
The difficulty Is to keep them from
working longer than is considered good.
To remember that the workers are
persons afflicted with a disease fre
quently ending fatally, one has to re
mind himself that such is the fact, for
the faces display such intent interest
and so great a degree of concentration
in their work that there is no room in
the mind for, and consequently no evi
dence of, morbidness.
Frederick H. Rhead, recently head of
the department of pottery at the Peo
ple's university near St. Louis, acts as
instructor. He is essentially an artist,
and, in addition, has rare powers of im
parting knowledge.
He is an exceedingly skillful potter.
Delicately he fashions the clay at the
wheel. But first his intelligent finger
tips discover its readiness. He squeezes
it and kneads it to assure himself that
its preparation has been perfect. Has
there been any fault in the beating or
mixing, no vase can come from it. To
the layman watching him there is
hardly a change in the turn of his fore
finger, when, behold! an entirely differ
ent shape develops. From having had
a flange the edge now turns inward;
having been tall and slender it has be
come an Iris bowl.
A visitor, fascinated by the possibili
ties of the clay and the wheel, says: "I
should want to play here all day."
"We do play all day" is the reply.
That is the secret and charm of the
whole thins. While it is really work.
and work that ts going to bring a re*
turn, there are no idlers. One feels in
dustry in the air. And yet they are,
playing all day because the work is so
The potter's wheel in use Iβ worked
by a treadle and is not the type that
Rhead prefers, but he manages it ex
cellently. It would be more convenient,
perhaps, to be able to use electricity as
the motive power. But i* one gets the
same results, what matter?
It is a curious school, where pupils
of any age whatever arrive at any time.
At present there Is one who is scarcely
more than a child. Age and attainment
do not run hand in hand; rather do they
travel in opposite directions.
The patient pupils begin naturally
with the easiest work of all—the mak
ing of vases from molds. As soon a<
they show sufficient dexterity they ad
vance to the decorating with the raised
or incised line on moist clay, the de
sign being first drawn in water colors,
Necessarily it must be the case thai
many of the pupils have no natural
aptitude for art. This makes it dif
ficult to regulate the output—that !|
to provide the retail dealers with real*
ly good work and not overstock- them
with simpler types.
Another important feature is the ne
cessity for preventing dissatisfaction
among the workers. So >it is deemed
advisable to permit those who display
marked artistic ability to do exclusive
work. This creates a peculiar condi
tion which must eventually work Itself
The work rooms are small, but a
great deal of work goes on. At a
wheel that revolves on a pedestal about
8 feet high, stands a young woman
putting a design on a vase just from
the potter's wheel. She has a queer
sort of leather covered tube In her
hand, which, with slight pressure ex
udes Just enough clay to make raised
lines. The vase is of a tan hue, the
design brown, made so by an admix
ture of Iron and manganese. The de
sign Is a conventional one, but she
does not need to measure spaces. Her
•ye Is true.
It Iβ pleasing to note how perfectly
the wheel Is set, how smoothly It
moves. The slightest touch meets with
a response. Likewise the slightest bit
of olumsiness will result fatally. In
fact every task about a pottery must
be performed with the utmost care,
from the mixing of the clay to the fir
ing. Concentration of thought and
steadiness of hand are two great es
sentials of skill.
Another pupil leans Intent over a
vase, with a needle in her hand. This
Instrument is shaped like the eye of
a tailor's needle, but larger. She puts
enough pr* 3^!!* on the needle with
each Btrolco I ■ make the lines just
deep enougii to carry out the design,
with a nice respect for a proportion.
One beautiful vase with a design
worked out in relief at the base, run
ning into incised lines at the top, was
carved when the clay was dry, a much
more difficult process than when the
slay is wet. . .
Original ideas always meet with
encouragement. A very good design
leveloped from the original motif of a
pair of love Mrds, the pets of one of
the pupils. Another cleverly combined
Idea was derived from the surrounding
Henry Atkins and Arthur Putnam
have given great assistance in a sug
gesting design.
In a few specimens Chinese , garniture
has been effectively used. There are also
several good wedgewood pieces, dec
orated by means of hand made runners,
applied to the wet clay before it leaves
the potter's wheel.
No two sets of potter tools are alike.
It is said that a full set of potter's
tools has never been made, for each
worker has his preferences, and In
■election manifests his individuality.
Two young boys help with the heavy
work of the plant—the first handling
of the clay as It arrives from its home
In Placer county, the mixing and beat
ing:. Sixty per cent of clay is used, to
which is added water, silica and other
Clements required for withstanding the
heat and other treatment to which it is
subjected. y
Batches of 600 pounds are mixed
every two weeks in large vats. After
part of the water has been removed by
a siphon the liquid clay is poured on
Slabs of marble, to absorb more
moisture. Next it is taken from the
slabs and beaten for hours until a per
fectly even consistency is reached. In
sufficiently prepared, the clay would
not mold at all nor harmonize with the
glazes and enamels.
All casting is done by one of the
boys. Recently he has been engaged
on the model for urns to be placed in
Mrs. W« H. Crocker's beautiful gar
dens. The model for these, which had
been sent to the pottery, had not been
developed in well tempered clay and
had shrunk. This made It necessary to
cast a new model.
All other duties of the pottery the
patients are taught to perform, even
to attending: the kilns. Of these there
are three, varying: in size from the one
in which the wee little vases are fired
to the 5V4 ton kiln. The latter was
brought from Detroit, fortunately with
out a mishap, even to the top of the
Not so the smallest one—it wasn't
much of a hill climber. It arrived In
good shape at the bottom, but at the
top it was all to the bad; In fact, it
had to be patched and made over.
Oil is the fuel used In the kilns, the
large one having six side burners. It
has three peekholes through which the
attendant can see the degree of tem
perature. One does not need a ther
mometer for that. The degree of heat
is by the color of the interior,
the buboifes in the glaze, or the swirl
ing, waving motion of it around the
piece. In this kiln it is possible to use
either the reducing or oxidizing atmos
phere. In the smaller kilns the curious
looking pyrometrie cones are used for
regulating tl»<? heat.
All the Arequtpe. buildings are airy
and filled with light. The location is
almost devoid of fogs. The climate has
been found particularly adapted to com
bating the encroachment of tuberculosis
and also to effecting a cure of asthma
when coincident with the disease. Two
long porches, one beneath the other,
measuring 75 by 30 feet, form the main
part of the dormitory building as it
now stands. Ultimately, however, this
building will constitute merely the
right wing, the intention being to erect
a corresponding one on the opposite
side, containing offices, living room,
culinary department, etc., thus forming
a connection between the two. The
addition of this wing will make it pos
sible to accommodate an additional 22
patients without increasing the ex
Presumably some one will raise the
objection that a sanatorium capable of
housing so small a number of patients
can have but little efTect on the solut
ion of so huge a problem. The answer
is that it is only the beginning—a
model upon which an unlimited number
of sanatoriums. if necessary, may bo
constructed in the future.
The long porches mentioned above are
inclosed with screens alone, thus pre
venting all possibility of air exclusion,
even in stormy weather. Ventilation is
also secured from above. These are
sleeping porches and each accommo
dates 11 beds. Four partitioned spaces
make it possible for a few of the pa
tients to have greater privacy. In the
rear, leading from each of the wards, is
a dressing room, heated night and
morning for the comfort of the pa
tients, each one of whom has a locker
provided with shelves and drawers and
large enough for her to make her toilet
in. There are ample accommodations
for both shower and tub baths.
All handkerchiefs, napkins and spu
tum cups used on the premises are
made of paper, and are consumed in
the bi-daily fires. In every respect
perfect sanitation is maintained. All
beds are carbolized once a week." As
soon as a patient leaves, her bedding
is fumigated in a closet arranged for
that purpose. Each day the floors are
swept with moist sawdust. In the
matter of furnishings all germ gath
erers have been eliminated.
The linen closet is a memorial of the
generosity.of Murphy, Grant & Co., who
donated ail the goodly piles that weigh
down its shelves.
The living room is attractive without
being elaborate. It has a beamed cell
ing and, like the other rooms, is fin
ished throughout in natural woods. The
big fireplace is filled at this season of
the year with fragrant boughs of red
wood. Above the living room are the
office and private quarters of Miss
Harnden, managing nurse of the san
atorium, and her assistant, Mrs. George
Hill, widow of the late commissioner.
Here also are pleasant out of door
sleeping accommodations.
The laundry is splendidly equipped
with every modern electrical conveni
ence, even to a centrifugal wringer
The head laundryman makes you feel
that his joy is complete Just in being
permitted to conduct the place. This
building and equipment were the gfft
of a woman recently cured of tuber
The sanatorium is r.ct ir any sense a
charitable institution. A charge of »i
a day is made, while in cases requiring
special nursing, the charge is increased
to $1.50. By means of the splendid eco
nomic system in operation at the san
atorium under the management of Miss
Harnden. it has been found that these
small fees are sufficient to meet ru;
nlng expenses.
Many prominent names may t»*
found in the list of persons who hav\
rendered active assistance to the un
dertaking but now completing its first
year. Eighty per cent of the money
necessary at the start was presented
The site covers 35 acres and was the
Sift of Henry Bothin. John Bakewell
;rew and donated plans for all build
ings. A board of physicians gives its
services in like manner.
One of the plans for the future of
the sanatorium is the provision of a
home for convalescent nurses who, in
exchange, will render slight services
required by patients. A cottage has
been built for this purpose, which will
eventually be so used.

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