Remembering: Tony Hepburn

Remembering: Tony Hepburn

Tony Hepburn

Tony Hepburn and clay sculpture (undated; from ACC archives) 

It is with great sadness that we announce the death of ceramic artist, educator, and writer Tony Hepburn on January 5, 2015 at his home in Chicago, Illinois. Hepburn was renowned for his distinct, conceptual sculptures, as well as his vast knowledge of the field and commitment to education. He was 72 years old.

Hepburn was born on September 9, 1942, in Manchester, England. He was educated at Camberwell College of Arts in London, where he studied with influential studio potter Hans Coper, and at London University. Following his studies, Hepburn began writing a column, "Letters from London" for Craft Horizons magazine. "Letters from London" ran from 1967 to 1970. Hepburn's experience writing for this publication of the American Craft Council led to an interest in American ceramics, and he subsequently made his first visit to the United States in 1968, where he was introduced to the work of ceramists Peter Voulkos, Ken Price and Jim Melchert.

After brief teaching experiences in England, Hepburn took a position as visiting artist and head of crafts at the Art Institute of Chicago for the 1974-1975 academic term. The following year he became cead of the division of art and design at the New York State College of Ceramics at Alfred University, where he continued as professor of ceramics until 1992. In fall of 1992, he joined the faculty at Cranbrook Academy of Art, where he taught until his retirement in 2008. During the whole of his teaching career, Hepburn continued to produce meditative works in clay for international exhibition. Following his retirement, he moved to Chicago where he continued to draw and write until his death.

In addition to being named a Fellow of the American Craft Council in 2008, Hepburn has received awards from many organizations over his lifetime, including the Virginia Groot Foundation (1991), the New York State Council on the Arts ('90/'86) and the National Endowment for the Arts (1985). Over the course of his career, he contributed many articles to his Craft Horizons column, as well as to journals including American Craft, Ceramics: Art and Perception, the New Art Examiner, and Ceramic Review.

Hepburn's sculptural work can be found in the public collections of many institutions, including (but not limited to) the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Racine Art Museum, the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, the Cranbrook Art Museum, the Kanazawa Art Museum in Japan; the International Ceramics Museum in Italy, and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Seoul. 

For more on Hepburn's life and contributions to the field of ceramics, please see Paul Kotula's tribute on the National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts blog.