Industry Loses an Icon: Susan Peterson Dies at Age 83

April 8, 2009
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The following was released by Arizona State University Art Museum:

Susan Harnly Peterson, ceramic artist, writer and professor, passed away at her home in Scottsdale, Ariz., on March 26, 2009, after a long illness. She was surrounded by her family and friends.

Peterson graduated from Mills College in Oakland, Calif., in 1946 and went to the New York State College of Ceramics at Alfred University to complete her master’s of fine arts degree in Ceramics. While there, she met and married her husband, Jack L. Peterson.

She began teaching ceramics first in 1952 and spent 23 years at the University of Southern California. From 1956-1985, Peterson taught at Idyllwild School of Music and the Arts (ISOMATA) each summer. She continued her life as an educator at Hunter College in New York City, retiring from teaching in 1994.

Peterson traveled extensively and became an advocate for ceramic arts worldwide. She did workshops and gave lectures in countries as diverse as Japan, Australia, India, China, Sweden, England and throughout the U.S., where she brought well-known international ceramic artists to work and teach. During her career, she also helped establish many programs to assist artists, including ceramic departments at Chouinard, USC, Hunter and ISOMATA.

Peterson’s writing career began in 1974 with a monograph on the Japanese potter Shoji Hamada; her book on artist Maria Martinez was the best-selling art book of 1978 and won a Cowboy Hall of Fame award. She was in the process of completing the 5th edition of Craft and Art of Clay, originally published in 1990, at the time of her death.

Peterson received many awards throughout her career, including the Knight of Order of the Lion of Finland (1969), a Fellow of the American Craft Council (1983), the National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts (NCECA) Lifetime Achievement Award (1996) and the College of Fine Arts of Arizona State University’s Distinguished Achievement Award (1999).

The Arizona State University Art Museum Ceramics Research Center dedicated the Susan Harnly Peterson Ceramic Research Archive in 2002, where much of her expansive personal collection of books, slides, notes and pottery is available to study.

She is survived by her children, Jill Hoddick, Jan Peterson and Taag Peterson, and seven grandchildren.

Donations to honor Peterson may be made to Arizona State University Art Museum, P.O. Box 872911, Tempe, AZ, 86287, attention Peter Held, Curator of Ceramics. A memorial service is planned for May 9 at the Arizona State University-Tempe Campus.

For more information, call (480) 965-0014 or e-mail

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