Austin / AP
I had the opportunity to hang out with Marilyn Kay Austin this past weekend. Most people reading this will know her from her design work at Architectural Pottery.
Marilyn graduated with an Industrial Design degree from the University of Illinois in 1962. She was the only woman in her class. She then headed off to Los Angeles for her first job at Architectural Pottery. At 22 years old, she was the first full-time designer hired by the company. Unlike La Gardo Tackett, David Cressey, Raul Coronel and many of the other designers at the company, she was not a ceramicist. Her design work was done with pen and paper. She also handled graphic design duties and was responsible for the company's 1964 catalog.
Her designs were exhibited in California Design Nine
She was also included in the 2012 CALIFORNIA'S DESIGNING WOMEN: 1896–1986 exhibition and subsequent catalog.
Before being approached by Bill Stern of the Museum of California Design, she was unaware of the interest in her early design work at Architectural Pottery. After all, she was only there for a short time. Most of her career was spent designing for American Standard in Kentucky, her own design firm, and in 1988 she returned to Los Angeles and worked for 15 years as a designer for the Veterans Administration.
She's been having fun with the attention received from the exhibition and it even motivated her to get the above photographs of her work framed. She only has a few of her own Architectural Pottery pieces . As a young designer she didn't have a lot money to splurge on designer pots, so she purchased them as seconds from the back lot. She also has a few David Cressey pots, including a hand-thrown prototype and one of her forms with his design applied to it. Cressey was quite the "hunk" back in the day. In fact, Marilyn shared a couple risque stories about her days at Architectural Pottery. One of the stories had to do with one of her planter designs Let's just say it looked a little too masculine. The owners of the company, Max and Rita Lawrence, had to point it out to young and innocent Marilyn after getting a good laugh of course.
Today, Marilyn spends her time cycling, traveling and she's still designing. On the day I hung out with her she had just finished a day at wood turning class. She showed me the bowl she was working on and it was good one. She definitely still has the eye.