Remembering: Gerry Williams

Remembering: Gerry Williams

Gerry Williams, celebrated ceramist, American Craft Council Fellow, founder of Studio Potter magazine, and beloved ambassador for all things clay died August 25 in New Hampshire. He was 88 years old.

Williams was born in 1926 in India, where his parents were American missionaries. It was during his childhood in Bengal that Williams had experiences that led him to clay. Influenced by, as the artist often recalled, Mahatma Gandhi's "idea of handicraft and low agricultural economies, living in mud-brick homes, growing things, making things for use by other people," Williams' ventured to the United States to study at Cornell College in Iowa. Although he was a conscientious objector to the WWII, he left school to provide alternative war service. Following the war he moved to Concord, New Hampshire, in 1949 to study with the League of New Hampshire Craftsmen. It was there that he developed his lifelong passion for ceramics while creating functional earthenware made with local red clay.

In 1953 after marrying his wife Julie, Williams built his own studio and home in rural Dunbarton, New Hampshire. Throughout the 1950s through '70s, he continued to focus on his wheel-thrown pottery techniques, while quickly becoming known for his more expressive architectural forms in both porcelain and stoneware. He also taught at institutions including Dartmouth College and Haystack Mountain School of Crafts and participated in numerous ACC seminars and conferences, all while exhibiting his own work throughout the United States and abroad.

A landmark in Williams career was his founding of Studio Potter magazine in 1972. He would continue to edit it for more than 30 years. During this time, he and his wife traveled extensively to interview artists working in studio ceramics in both urban areas and the most remote regions of the world. His influence on the ceramic field through Studio Potter led to the ACC honoring Williams with a Gold Medal for publications in 1986. In addition to this and his induction into the College of Fellows in 1979, Williams has received many awards, including becoming an honorary member of the National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts, New Hampshire's first Artist Laureate in 1998, and New Hampshire's Lotte Jacobi Living Treasure Award in 2005. His works are a part of numerous public and private collections including the Smithsonian Institution, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and the Currier Museum of Art in Manchester, New Hampshire.

Williams will be remembered for his generous spirit, contributions to the field, and passion for clay, as evidenced in this statement from his Colby-Sawyer interview:

It is still an enigma to me how and why I enjoy potting. I feel about pottery what William Stafford said about poetry: "I don't want to make good poems, I want to make inevitable poems." Pottery is what I do, who I am, where I come from.

For more information on the life of Gerry Williams and his contributions to the field, please visit the Studio Potter website.