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Pottery That Tells A Story

Mary and Edwin Scheier (born 1908, 1910) devoted their lifetimes to creating and teaching ceramics. They lived and worked in New Hampshire from 1940 to 1968 and are internationally known potters who were active participants in the American studio ceramics revival of the mid-twentieth century. Their work is represented in numerous museum collections across the country and is highly prized by collectors. Starting their careers in the rural South in programs funded by Roosevelt’s Works Progress Administration (WPA), the Scheiers began their career together as traveling puppeteers. A stop at a ceramics lab in Tennessee piqued their interest in and fascination with clay and its potential.

The Scheier’s work displays a lifelong collaboration, though they each had a distinct artistic identity. Mary’s specialty became creating wheel-thrown forms while Ed specialized in decorating and glazing techniques. The work that resulted from this collaborative effort was characterized by elegant shapes that were often decorated with sgraffito designs depicting figures, biblical scenes and abstract designs. Many of their forms draw upon Appalachian folk pottery and are then personalized with their own bold decorations. Ed’s work explored his view of the human condition through clay, often depicting the mother and child or scenes of Adam and Eve. Pre-Columbian pottery and their travels in Mexico were also influential in their work. The Scheiers produced extensive numbers of bowls, plates, platters, jars and vases. Mary threw the medium sized pieces which Ed then decorated. The larger pieces were usually thrown and decorated by Ed who sometimes, though rarely, would make a preliminary drawing of his designs. Most often he would draw directly onto the clay. The many earthenware and stoneware bowls in the collection of the Currier Museum of Art are utilitarian in nature, but also colorful and expressive. Each can tell a unique story in its decorative language. The bowls are low, high, straight-sided, gently tapered, exaggeratedly bulbous or decidedly squat. On some bowls, both the interior and exterior are decorated. Ultimately, the viewer’s eye leads around the whole work, taking in form, surface, color and decoration.

The Scheiers were honored as Lotte Jacobi Living Treasures at the 2003 New Hampshire Governors’ Arts Awards. The award acknowledges their commitment to the arts in New Hampshire and the important role they played in the development of the visual arts community in the state.

The Scheiers’ work has achieved national and international importance. Their pieces have provoked, excited and instilled new ideas in search of beauty. Both their functional ware and decorative objects helped to shape the American craft tradition. Later in life, the Scheiers spent time living in Mexico and explored the Mexican tradition of weaving. Finally retiring to Arizona, Edwin Scheier turned to a new tool, the computer, to produce perhaps his last body of work.

Source: American Potters, Mary and Edwin Scheier, Michael Komanecky, Currier Museum of Art, 1993.

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Mary and Edwin Scheier, Footed Bowl, no date
Mary and Edwin Scheier, Footed Bowl, not dated

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