Susan Peterson, a noted ceramic artist, writer and professor who headed the Idyllwild Arts summer ceramics program from the late 1960s through the early 1980s, passed away at home in Scottsdale, Ariz., on Thursday, March 26, 2009, after a long illness.
A dynamic teacher and administrator, Peterson thrust the Idyllwild Arts ceramics program into national prominence. At a time when ceramics were regarded by all but a few as “craft,” Peterson brought such noted ceramic artists as John Mason and Peter Voulkos to the campus as teachers. The result was to attract a new type of student to the summer program, one who was interested in exploring the boundaries of ceramics as art.
In addition to her groundbreaking work at ISOMATA, Peterson developed ceramic departments and taught at the Wichita Art Association School, the Chouinard Art Institute, the University of Southern California, and Hunter College in New York City, where she was professor emerita.
Her books include “The Living Tradition of Maria Martinez”; “Shoji Hamada: A Potter’s Way and Works”; “The Craft and Art of Clay”; “Contemporary Ceramics”; “Working in Clay”; and “Smashing Glazes.” Her book on artist Maria Martinez was the bestselling art book of 1978 and won a Cowboy Hall of Fame award.
William Lowman, Idyllwild Arts Foundation president, called Peterson “a seminal figure in the development of ceramic art at Idyllwild Arts. Her contributions to the American art world are significant not only for her work as a potter, but as an author and scholar. Her knowledge of the field was unsurpassed.”
Lowman went on to note that Peterson was largely responsible for bringing such famous artists as Maria Martinez and Francois Gilot to the campus.
A memorial service for Susan Peterson is planned for May 9 at the Arizona State University, Tempe campus.