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Vicki McComas, ceramics artist and Fells Point shopkeeper, dies

Vicki McComas
Vicki McComas (Handout / HANDOUT)

Vicki McComas, ceramics artist and Fells Point shopkeeper, died of complications of diabetes and kidney disease Aug. 31 at Union Memorial Hospital. The Fells Point resident was 68.

Born in Baltimore, she was the daughter of Henry McComas, an accountant for Warner Packaging, and his wife, Jeanne Ulrich. She moved with her parents as a child while her father was posted to other Warner plants. She lived in Fairfield, Connecticut in her teen years and was a graduate of Roger Ludlowe School. She attended Fairfield University.

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While living there, she registered as a Democrat and joined the Fairfield Young Democrats and was invited into the home of Joanne Woodward and Paul Newman who lived in nearby Westport.

She returned to Baltimore and was a 1975 graduate of the Maryland Institute College of Art where she majored in graphic art and ceramics.

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“When she was growing up she loved the New York City disco scene,” said her husband, Daniel Kuc. “She loved to dance and she went to Studio 54, among other places. She hung out with the band, the New York Dolls. She could recall Bruce Springsteen performing at small venues.”

After she graduated, she cooked lunches at Martick’s Restaurant Francais and baked pastries for Bertha’s on South Broadway.

She initially settled in Bolton Hill and later moved to Fells Point, where she and her husband bought a home.

“We bought a house that was full of furniture and tchotchkes,” he said. “Vicki got a traders license and opened the first floor. She soon sold out and began meeting up with friends on the weekends to go to yard and estate sales. If she found a big piece of furniture she called me to come and pick it up.”

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His said his wife never drove and visited yard sales with friends who had cars.

The Aliceanna Street shop was named Saratoga Trunk after the Edna Ferber novel and movie.

“She was great as a navigator. She did not have a cellphone and she used a traditional map book. She spent the evening before working out where we would be going,” said Susan Milukas, a friend. “She was not a morning person and knew she had to do these things. She was not the kind of person who grabbed something out of another buyer’s hand.”

“It was a whole ritual. We’d do the shopping thing then go have breakfast,” said Ms. Milukas.

She ran the shop until 2020.

A 2019 Baltimore Sun article featured Ms. McComas and her shop’s two resident cats.

“Lulu, along with another cat named Czak, spends her days at Saratoga Trunk in Fells Point home. Vicki McComas, who owns and lives just above the antiques shop, said that she found both cats through the Baltimore Animal Rescue and Care Shelter (BARCS). While both cats like people, Lulu embraces the thrill of public engagement more often than her housemate,” the story said.

“If the weather’s good, I will leave the door ajar, and she sits on the front step,” McComas said. “Anybody that walks by, she goes up to them, has a ‘chat,’ and when they try to pet her, she comes back to the store and they follow her in. She’s a shill!”

In the story she said she used the cats as models for some of her ceramic works.

“Lulu’s the kind of cat that if someone starts petting her, and she really likes them, she rolls on her back and lets them scratch her tummy, and that’s very unusual in a cat,” Ms. McComas said. “We’re not sure she’s a cat, let’s put it that way.”

She told friends she never knew who would walk in the shop. Among her celebrity customers were Maya Angelou, Tracey Ullman, Corbin Bernsen and Billy Idol.

Ms. McComas never stopped taking art courses and returned to MICA for classes.

She was also a board member and teacher at the Potters Guild in Woodberry. She displayed her ceramics at her shop and also made and sold jewelry.

A 2006 Sun article said, “A teacher at the [Potters] Guild, Vicki McComas is also such a long-running student at MICA, she’s become a kind of den mother in the ceramics continuing education classes. She’s a good cook who brings goodies, great technical advice and a strong creative imagination to class. She started out looking for a place to work and just never stopped going: ‘I have never missed a semester since 1985. I probably have 145 place credits now.’”

The article also said, “She throws lovely pots, sometimes glazed with slashes like Chinese calligraphy. But she also makes sculptured pieces, such as the ceramic elephant at the Potters Guild studio, which she modeled after a toy of her father’s. Her three cats also turn up in her work, notably Bear-Bear, who’s decked out in a busty, scooped-neck dress in a work titled Fortuneteller at the Jersey Shore.”

“She had a lot of whimsy and she used animals to tell stories, like her cats,” said Sarah Z. Barnes, a friend and MICA studio manager. “She had sense of joy and she also had a slightly naughty side. Her work was more like folk art.

Ms. McComas hosted an annual Christmas party and served nearly 40 bottles of her homemade viryta, a liqueur made of alcohol, spices, lemon and honey.

She also was a regular patron of the Downtown Farmers’ Market and the 32nd Street Waverly Market. She often met friends at Atwater’s bakery in Canton Crossing and at Birds of a Feather in her home neighborhood.

She enjoyed spending time in Chincoteague, Virginia where she bought local seafood and prepared it for family and friends.

A Vicki McComas scholarship has been created at MICA.

Survivors include her husband of 30 years, Daniel Kuc, a retired interior designer and space planner who she met in 1979; and a sister, Megan Johnson of Warminster, Pennsylvania.

Plans for a memorial service is being planned.

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