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Vince Pitelka has been professionally involved in ceramics for over forty-five years. After several formative experiences with clay very early in life in Berkeley, California, his real start in the medium came at Humboldt State University in Northern California’s Redwood Empire, where he learned clay from Louis Marak and earned his BA in Art in 1971. Vince did a stint working as a journeyman mechanic and welder for the City of Arcata, and then ten years as a full-time studio potter making functional tableware and kitchenware at Railroad Stoneware, his studio in Blue Lake, California. In 1985 Vince and his wife and son moved to Amherst, MA, where Vince and Linda attended graduate school at UMass-Amherst. In the ceramics program at UMass, Vince worked with Frank Ozereko and Nancy LaPointe and completed his MFA in 1988. In graduate school he became fascinated with the tradition of elaborate surface pattern in ceramics, and developed techniques for creating highly-detailed pattern and imagery with inlaid colored clays.
Vince has taught at University of Massachusetts, Northeastern University in Boston, North Dakota State University in Fargo, and for the past twenty-three years as Professor of Art and Head of the Clay Program at the Appalachian Center for Craft, a satellite campus of Tennessee Technological University in Middle Tennessee and part of their School of Art, Craft & Design. At the Craft Center he has continued his exploration of pattern on vessel forms, shifting to impressed pattern using bisque-stamps of his own design, and often incorporating found or fabricated wood and metal parts installed after glaze-firing. Recent work includes slab- and coil-built vessels reinterpreting traditional utilitarian and industrial storage and pouring vessels. Vince has always been fascinated by the inherent mystery in covered vessels that do not reveal their purpose or contents, and a current series of coil forms responds to vessels semi-permanently or permanently sealed, such as time-capsules, canopic jars, cinerary urns, and ossuaries.
Vince is the recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship and has exhibited work and taught workshops throughout North America and internationally. Since 1995 he has been an active participant in the Clayart Internet discussion forum. His column “Tool Times” appears quarterly in Clay Times magazine, and the completely revised second edition of his book Clay: A Studio Handbook was published in 2016 by the American Ceramic Society.
Vince’s wife of 47 years, Dr. Linda Pitelka is Professor of History at Maryville University in St. Louis, and his son Dr. Morgan Pitelka is Director of the Carolina Asia Center and Professor of East Asian Studies at University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. Morgan is a scholar of Japanese medieval ceramics, tea culture, and samurai society, and his published volumes include Spectacular Accumulation: Material Culture, Tokugawa Ieyasu, and Samurai Sociability; Handmade Culture: Raku Potters, Patrons and Tea Practitioners in Japan; and Japanese Tea Culture: Art, History, and Practice.