Ohr served as an apprentice to Joseph Fortune Meyer, who later served Newcomb College, in New Orleans in 1879. His interest in pottery bloomed as he traveled through 16 states in the early 1880s visiting varied potters and pottery companies to learn technique and gain inspiration for his own work. In 1882, he returned to New Orleans and went to work for William Virgin Pottery, according to the Ohr-O'Keefe Museum of Art's website (see link to Ohr chronology below).
Ohr returned to Biloxi to build his first pottery studio in 1883 with his paltry savings of just $26.80. He dug clay from the Tchoutacabouffa River to craft his first pieces. By the early 1890s he was aptly describing himself as an "art potter" and inscribed this designation on a ewer he crafted. In 1892 he fashioned what is known as the "monumental urn," an uncharacteristically large piece on display at the Ohr-O'Keefe Museum (see link to photo below) that has a classical look about it when compared to the freeform shapes most collectors associate with this artisan.
Along with many other now well known artisans and companies, Ohr displayed his wares at The World's Columbian Exposition, also known as The Chicago World's Fair, in 1893. He exhibited at other shows and events and was featured in many magazines and journals highlighting art of his time. He earned a silver medal at The Louisiana Purchase International Exposition held in St. Louis, Missouri in 1904, where the work of individual artists was emphasized. His work continued to evolve during this time, and he eventually denounced glazed pottery for more freeform sculptural pieces, according to the Ohr-O'Keefe Museum. He also began to experiment with different types of clay to create his bisque wares.
Quite the character who purportedly thought very highly of himself, with a long flowing mustache and an apparent propensity for being photographed while hamming for the camera (see links to Ohr photos below), his studio became a tourist attraction on the Mississippi Gulf Coast with visitors flowing in from around the United States. His wares were clearly popular, but not viewed on the genius level he seemed to be seeking at the time.
Shunned when he submitted his work to The Smithsonian as a contemporary in 1899, it wasn't until the 1960s that his work was recognized for its brilliance by collectors and art historians. The pieces he submitted were finally recorded as part of The Smithsonian's collection, after being broken and battered, 87 years later.
Now Ohr's vessels are eagerly sought by advanced pottery collectors for great sums and displayed with reverence in The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York in addition to the Ohr-O'Keefe Museum in Biloxi and other venues recognizing decorative arts across the country.
To visit the Ohr Pottery Price Guide to see more examples and learn about the high value of Ohr pottery, click here.