Mary and Edwin Scheier
Mary and Edwin Scheier were partners and co-creators for over seven decades. They were self-taught, leading figures in the reemergence of studio pottery in the 20th century, elevating the craft to fine art.
The Scheiers initially met through working for the WPA during the Great Depression and married in 1937; for a short time, they were traveling puppeteers, before settling in Tennessee, where they taught art classes and began experimenting with pottery. In 1938 they relocated to New Hampshire, where they were invited to lead the ceramics program at University of New Hampshire, Durham.
There, they began developing their distinct style, which was initially inspired by the potters they met in the Appalachian mountains. They would go on to incorporate other global folk traditions into their work, which included modern and primitive imagery alike, as well as their own particular proclivities; Mary created small, hand-thrown works with delicate applied decoration and Ed did most of the glazing and made larger, more sculptural works.
In 1968 Ed and Mary relocated to Oaxaca, Mexico; Mary had to stop creating pottery due to arthritis and Ed turned his attention to woodworking and tapestries. It wasn't until ten years later, when they moved to Arizona, that Ed returned to pottery. Ed and Mary passed away in 2008 and 2007, respectively; a large portion of their works are held by the University of New Hampshire and The Currier Museum, Manchester, NH.
You musn’t think about it, you must feel it.
Husband and wife duo Edwin and Mary Scheier enjoyed a prolific and prodigious career that spanned nearly six decades. Their lifelong collaboration began in the late 1930s when they worked for the federal Works Progress Administration. Not long after, the two married and then spent a year as traveling puppeteers before obtaining the opportunity to study ceramics at the Tennessee Valley Authority Ceramic Laboratory. The rest, as they say, is history; the couple fell in love with pottery, Mary becoming incredibly adept at throwing pots, and Edwin at glazing and decoration.
In 1940 they relocated to Durham, New Hampshire at the behest of architect David R. Campbell to work at the University of New Hampshire, where Edwin taught and Mary was artist-in-residence. They settled in and stayed for nearly thirty years, garnering a dedicated following of students and clients, and periodically taking trips to Oaxaca, Mexico to soak up the ancient culture and design. Edwin and Mary moved to Oaxaca full-time in the late 1960s where they lived and worked for nearly ten years before making their final move to Green Valley, Arizona. While in Oaxaca, Edwin branched out into weavings and sculpture, working in indigenous guanacaste wood and designing tapestries that were then woven by local craftspeople.
The Scheiers developed a distinctive style that, though it evolved over time, is immediately recognizable. Common themes ranged from biblical to pre-Columbian to abstract, drawing from their many travels and exposure to different cultures and styles. Mary’s thin-walled, elegantly shaped vessels illustrate her mastery of the wheel and her admiration for Japanese and Chinese ceramic traditions, while Edwin’s abstract designs display a nuanced understanding of fine art balanced with a playfulness reflecting his sense of humor. Their individual strengths combined into a dynamic synergism of form and decoration. The couple continued to work and create even into the last decade of their lives. In fact, when Edwin was forced to give up throwing pots due to his health, he acquired a computer and began making computer drawings using similar themes to those of his pots.
Through their tireless dedication to their craft, this impressive duo left behind an indelible imprint on the development and history of American ceramics. Their work can be found in the permanent collections of many important institutions, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, the Museum of Modern Art, New York, Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Currier Museum of Art, Manchester, and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.
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