I have been a studio potter for the last half-century and an educator for 35 years. I retired from Tennessee Tech University’s Appalachian Center for Craft in 2018, and continue to teach clay workshops, including an annual summer/early fall workshop tour in the western U.S. and Canada. My wife Linda was a professor of American History at Maryville University in St. Louis, and now we live in Chatham County, North Carolina, southwest of Chapel Hill. Our son Morgan is Chair of the Department of Asian Studies at UNC.
For information about the rewritten, full-color second edition of my book Clay: A Studio Handbook, published in 2016 by American Ceramic Society, click the title or the image above. There are links to PDFs of the table of contents, introduction, and a list of potters and sculptors whose work is featured in full-color illustrations. To purchase a copy, please go to the Ceramic Arts Daily Bookstore or Amazon.
For the first time in 34 years, I have my own studio away from academia, equipped with an L&L electric kiln and a 30-cubic-foot soda kiln. You can see the pots from my soda firings are on the Current and Recent Work page of the Gallery. To see images of the studio, recent soda firings, and the kiln construction, go to Studio and Soda Kiln in the Gallery. To see a short video tour of my studio and another showing me building a teapot, click on Tour of My Studio or Creating a Slab-Built Teapot.
I joined the Chatham Artists Guild in 2019, and participated in the Guild’s 2019 and 2020 open studio tours on the first two weekends in December. This year we took special COVID precautions, and everything went smoothly. Many of us, myself included, moved our displays outside under roof for an additional measure of safety. Images of my display are on the Current and Recent Work page of the Gallery. Click here to access an interactive PDF of the Guild Artist Directory and Tour Brochure. Please visit the Chatham Artists Guild website for additional information about the Guild and member artists. Throughout the year my studio is open by appointment. Please contact me if you’d like to visit.
A new addition to this website is the Out West page and its sub-pages, featuring images selected from thousands shot during my annual summer road trips out west, plus a few from other locations. There’s also a gallery of color slides shot by my father Frank A. Pitelka during his many summers doing research in the Alaskan Arctic.
From 1975-85 I was a full-time studio potter at Railroad Stoneware, my studio in Blue Lake, California, making wheel-thrown functional ware. In grad school at UMass-Amherst I switched to handbuilding, and did colored clay vessels and architectural sculpture for 15 years. For the past 20 years I’ve made functional and sculptural vessels using slab and coil methods. To see examples of ceramic work through the stages of my career, go to the Gallery and click on the various pages. To find out more about influences and direction in my work, see my Artist’s Statement and Biography. To read about the technical processes, scroll down below the images on the various gallery pages.
I am thankful for a long and rewarding career in academia, but my favorite teaching venue has always been workshops. I’ve taught clay workshops nationally and internationally for over 30 years, and it’s always a thrill seeing what can be accomplished in one to five days of intensive immersion in the studio. For information about the workshops I teach go to the Workshops page. To see the schedule of workshops and other upcoming events, go to Scheduled Workshops and Events. To see a listing of workshops I have taught in the past, see my CV.
Professional information, such as CV, short biography, and publications can be found on the Contact/Information page. The Publications page includes information about the new edition of my book, Clay: A Studio Handbook (American Ceramic Society, 2016) and my “Tool Times” column in Clay Times magazine. To find out about my approach to teaching, read my Statement of Teaching Philosophy.
To see work by my clay students at Tennessee Tech University, go to the Gallery and click on Student Work. To see what my clay graduates are doing, scroll to the bottom of the Links page and click on the names. To access a large collection of PDF handouts about ceramics and other subjects, go to the Documents and Handouts page. Go to that page or click Super-Refined Terra Sigillata to access the PDF of that article.
From 1994 until my retirement in 2018, I was Professor of Art and head of the Clay Program at the Appalachian Center for Craft, a satellite campus of Tennessee Technological University’s School of Art, Craft & Design. The Appalachian Center for Craft is one of North America’s premier fine craft studio education facilities. The BFA program is unique in its mission to offer the highest quality professional fine craft education in Clay, Glass, Metals, Fibers, and Wood, with emphasis on traditional process in the context of contemporary art and craft. The grounds, sales gallery, and exhibition galleries are open seven days a week. Click on Sales Gallery or Exhibition Galleries for information about what is currently showing. To find out more about the Craft Center including the BFA Program in Clay, the Craft Certificate Program, and the Artist in Residence Program, go to the Appalachian Center for Craft webpage.