2005 Governors Arts Awards
Lotte Jacobi Living Treasure Award Recipient
Gerry Williams, studio potter, Dunbarton
Gerry Williams is a nationally and internationally recognized master craftsman, teacher, lecturer and author. He is the founder of The Studio Potter, a nonprofit, membership organization and editor of The Studio Potter Magazine, a journal about the aesthetics, technology, and history of pottery and about the personal lives of ceramic artists. On February 19, 1998 he was appointed as New Hampshire's first Artist Laureate by Governor Jeanne Shaheen.
Williams was born in India in 1926, the son of American missionaries. He attended Cornell College in Iowa during the war. Influenced by Gandhi, Williams states, “There is a lot of the spirit of India in my work, though not necessarily in the form of pottery. The political effigies that I do certainly come from my India experience because I look after them not as sculpture, but as folk art. The ambiance, the dignity of crafts, the importance of manual labor, the spiritual necessity of the humanistic core of crafts all come from my background in India.”
He began his career in ceramics by taking classes at the League of New Hampshire Craftsmen in the early 1950s when studio pottery was gaining recognition in the United States. New Hampshire was home to a number of significant artists in the studio ceramics movement such as Vivika and Otto Heino, Mary and Edwin Scheier, Karl Drerup, the Baileys, Ed Keen, George and Maija Salo, Lily Hoffman and Joseph Tripetti. Gerry Williams was inspired by these master potters when he built his own studio and home in rural Dunbarton, New Hampshire.
He also feels a strong connection to18th century potter Daniel Clark. Williams located Clark’s diary in the New Hampshire Historical Society and sought out the areas where he described his craft. These potters, centuries apart, both traveled to clay pits in Concord, New Hampshire to dig the materials for their redware clay vessels. Williams honored Clark’s memory by naming his non-profit organization which produces The Studio Potter Magazine, “by and for potters who make functional things,” after this “early New England potter who made utilitarian ware.”
He is not only a leader and an inspiration as a ceramic artist, but also a technical master in developing a photo resist process to lay images directly onto vessels. Also, he is noted as a master of the Copper Red Glaze, an elusive and challenging technique to attain.
Williams’ works are a part of many public and private collections including; the Smithsonian Institution, Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, The Currier Museum of Art, the Museum of Contemporary Crafts, Fleming Museum and George Walters Smith Museum in Springfield, MA.
“Along with personal creative achievements in his ceramic work, his generous spirit of giving is widely appreciated in our craft community, and no more so than among potters in New Hampshire. Gerry is a peaceful unassuming man who has made and continues to make a powerful impact on the craft community in New Hampshire as well as internationally. As a ceramic artist who has worked in this state from the time he first toughed clay, he has persevered to follow his dreams, quietly and humbly attainting the goals that most could not even dream.”, potter, Maureen Mills.
“When I think through the decades of [Williams] presence in our state, it seems hardly possible that anyone is New Hampshire could not know him already. He has touched so many people and organizations with his words, actions, and ceramic works I first knew [Williams] when his studio burned in 1970. [He] had always been so generous in the potter’s community with his resources, materials, equipment and knowledge, especially his complex glaze formulas. Within two weeks of the fire, a notebook of his glazes had been complied from dozens of potters around the state. With that and a new studio built in large part by potters and friends in the area, he was able to work within a few weeks. In 1990, when my own studio burned, he was right there with the rest of the potters of NH to construct a new one within a few months.” Al Jaeger.
“Gerry Williams has influence American ceramics in many important ways, especially through his work and through the fine magazine, Studio Potter. It is appreciated and admired for its quality and integrity, and its helpfulness to potters throughout the country.” 2003 Lotte Jacobi Living Treasure Award Winners, Edwin and Mary Scheier