Regis Masters Series

The Regis Masters Series honors senior artists who have had a major impact on the development of 20th and 21st century ceramics. The selected artists from this country and abroad, receive an honorarium, participate in an exhibition at NCC, and deliver a lecture about their life and times. In doing so, they add to the limited stock of oral history of a senior generation of ceramic artists.

In 2004, NCC published Clay Talks, stories from the edited transcripts of the first 13 lectures and reunions, with color and black & white illustrations.

The Regis Masters Series is made possible by a generous grant from Regis and Friends. The lectures are co-sponsored by The Minneapolis Institute of Arts.

2014—Adrian Saxe and Walter Ostrom

Adrian Saxe is Northern Clay Center’s 26th Regis Master; he is one of two  ceramic artists bestowed with the title in 2014. The other, Walter Ostrom, will be featured in an exhibition in fall of 2014. The Regis Masters Series began in 1997, and honors senior artists who have had a major impact on the development of 20th and 21st century ceramics. The Regis Masters Series was originally supported by Regis and Friends and continues today through generous support from Anita Kunin and the Kunin Family, in honor of the late Myron Kunin, a philanthropist and former owner of the Regis Corporation.

Adrian Saxe will add his story to a limited oral history of a senior generation of ceramic artists on Saturday, June 21, at 2 pm, with a free public lecture at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, in the Pillsbury Auditorium.  The lecture is co-sponsored by The Minneapolis Institute of Arts.

Born in 1943, Adrian Saxe was exposed to art at an early age. His mother was a colorist for the Walt Disney Studio in Burbank; his parents shared with him their respect for handmade objects. As a child, he experimented with clay from his backyard; he later had his first formal experience with ceramics during a summer session at the Otis Art Institute in Los Angeles, in 1957. For several years, in academia and on his own, Saxe continued his clay exploration and later attended the Chouinard Art School in Los Angeles, CA, from 1965 – 1969. He was an Instructor of Art at California State University in Long Beach for a year in 1971. He later received his BFA from the California Institute of the Arts in Valencia, CA, in 1974, and prior to completing his BFA, he became Professor of Art (and later Head of Ceramics) at the University of California, Los Angeles, where he still teaches today.

An artist of many honors and distinctions, Saxe was the recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship; he was named a Fellow of the American Crafts Council, and a Guggenheim Fellow; he was awarded a 2013 Masters of the Medium Award by the James Renwick Alliance of the Renwick Gallery at the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, DC.

His work is collected and exhibited extensively by dozens of museums, including the De Young Museum in San Francisco; The Gardiner Museum of Ceramic Art in Toronto, Ontario; the ASU Museum of Art at the Herberger College of the Arts in Tempe, AZ; the Smithsonian CooperHewitt at the National Design Museum in New York, NY; the Racine Art Museum in Wisconsin; the National Gallery of Australian in Canberra; the Museum of Contemporary Ceramic Art in Shigaraki, Japan; and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. His solo exhibitions date back to 1973 with such highlights as the Frank Lloyd Gallery in Santa Monica, CA; Garth Clark Gallery, New York, NY; and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. His work was previously exhibited in the Twin Cities at the Walker Art Center as part of the Dirt on Delight: Impulses that Form Clay exhibition, originally produced by the Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) in Philadelphia, PA.

Called the “postmodern ceramicist par excellence” by Edmund de Waal,1 Saxe weaves the past and the present, tradition and pop culture, and ceramic process and function into his forms. Saxe’s career in clay has been cyclical, having explored in his early years site-specific sculpture, later the vessel, and still later a combination of the two. He began his work in clay in the 1960s, with the creation of site-specific sculptures that included multiple, large modular ceramic objects. Later, in the early 1970s, he became interested in the social, political, economical, and theoretical context of pottery and has since focused his efforts on the creation of ceramic vessels. In the early 1980s, he received a French Ministry of the Arts Fellowship at the Atelier Experimental de Recherche et de Creation de la Manufacture Nationale de Sevres in Paris, a surprise to Saxe as the award typically was made to painters, architects, and sculptures. His work was described as “sculpture whose subject is pottery”2  by the French Ministry of Culture. This yearlong fellowship afforded him with concentrated time away from life distractions, time in which to re-evaluate work with the vessel form and his “attempt to redefine the relevancy of ceramics and the decorative arts in contemporary art.” Of particular interest and influence to him during his study was the Rococo art form of ormolu, an 18th-century process for the application of fine, high-carat gold to a bronze object.   

Saxe’s interest in “objects with implied or imagined capability to facilitate the attainment of one’s own desires” led to the creation of a body of work in the 1990s that included magic lamps and mixed-media fetishes that explored irrational desire in objects of agency (wishing wells, fortune-telling contraptions, chalices employed by the Roman Catholic Church, and good luck talismans, among others). Later, he returned again to his interest in small objects “best experienced as an intimate encounter in private spaces” — objects whose own viewing requirements are much different from Saxe’s large and theatrical works from earlier years.

Today, his work is a marriage of sorts between these small, intimate objects, wildly ornate in nature, and his earlier, larger sculptures and installations. This contemporary body of work explores Saxe’s fascination with the ways in which people define value and keep score, and “how our society constructs meaning in its visual culture and how it rewards irrational significance.”

1Edmund de Waal, 20th Century Ceramics, Thames & Hudson, 2003:202.

2Adrian Saxe, Artist Statement, 2013.  All further quotations are from this artist statement.


Walter Ostrom is Northern Clay Center’s 27th Regis Master; he is one of two ceramic artists bestowed with the title in 2014. The other, Adrian Saxe, was featured in an exhibition in spring of 2014. The Regis Masters Series began in 1997, and honors senior artists who have had a major impact on the development of 20th and 21st century ceramics. The Regis Masters Series was originally supported by Regis and Friends and continues today through generous support from Anita Kunin and the Kunin Family, in honor of the late Myron Kunin, a philanthropist and former owner of the Regis Corporation.

Ostrom will add his story to a limited oral history of a senior generation of ceramic artists on Saturday, September 27, at 2 pm, with a free public lecture at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, in the Pillsbury Auditorium. 

In honor of his nearly 40 years of teaching, Walter Ostrom, C.M., was recently appointed Professor Emeritus of Ceramics by the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. In 1997, he was awarded an Honorary Professorship at the Jingdezhen Ceramics Institute in Jingdezhen, Jiangxi Province, People’s Republic of China. One of Canada’s most highly respected ceramic artists, in 2003, Ostrom was also named the 27th recipient of the Saidye Bronfman Award and in April 2006 was inducted into the Order of Canada.

From Beijing to Amsterdam and New York, he is considered one of the most profoundly influential ceramists of his generation and a giant in the field of contemporary ceramics. Curator Susan Jeffries writes that Ostrom has a “profound interest in, and understanding of, the history of ceramics.”1 “His own work,” she notes, “is easily recognizable and of the highest order, both technically and conceptually… The white background often serves to record his vast knowledge and love of ceramic history and botany.”2 According to former NSCAD President, Paul Greenhalgh, his work is a “‘discourse on the history of ceramic ornamentation.’”3

Ostrom is regarded internationally as a technical and academic expert in tin glaze, an ancient ceramic technique that he has personally tailored, through innovations and decorative methods, to reflect the geography of the places where he has lived — whether in Nova Scotia or the Far East. His body of work has developed across many aspects of ceramics in the span of his nearly 50-year career — from experiments in high conceptualism in the 1970s to his later exploration of the vast history, hybridization, and social foundation of ceramics. Robin Metcalfe, author of Studio Rally: Art and Craft of Nova Scotia (1999), claims that “in the polarized context of contemporary clay discourse in Halifax” — and, we would add, throughout the contemporary clay world — Ostrom’s work represents a “clay practice that orients itself toward the pot, rather than to clay as a more generally sculptural medium, and thus towards craft and function and away from the gallery as its primary site.”4

Nonetheless, Ostrom has exhibited extensively and lectured internationally. He has participated in more than 100 group and solo exhibitions throughout North America and has presented over 150 workshops and lectures in Canada, the United States, Europe, and Asia. His work can be found in the permanent collections of the Victoria and Albert Museum, London; the Canadian Museum of Civilization, Ottawa; the Boston Museum of Fine Arts; the Gardiner Museum of Ceramics, Toronto; Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, Halifax; and the Claridge Collection, Montreal.

Born in the United States and educated there and in Europe, Ostrom moved to Canada in 1969 to teach at the Nova Scotia College of Art & Design (now NSCAD University). An outstanding educator, he is committed to craft practice and theory. Widely recognized as a seminal teacher for generations of ceramic artists and for using the local red clay of Nova Scotia, he has been instrumental in reviving such tenets of craft as utility, decoration, and function, and he continues to champion the role of fine craft within the visual arts.

1 Susan Jefferies, “A Place in Ceramic History: Roseline Delisle and Walter Ostrom,” Crafting New Traditions: Canadian Innovators and Influences, edited by Melanie Egan, Alan C. Elder, and Jean Johnson, (Quebec, Canada: Canadian Museum of Civilization Corporation, 2009): 25.

2 Jefferies, “A Place in Ceramic History,” 30.

3 As quoted in Jefferies, “A Place in Ceramic History,” 30.

4 Robin Metcalfe, “Tempest in a Teapot: Walter Ostrom and the Clay Wars,” ARTSatlantic, issue 56, Fall/Winter 1996: 4–5.

2012—Richard Shaw and Jun Kaneko

Richard Shaw

More information will be available shortly.


Jun Kaneko

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2009—Patti Warashina

Patti Warashina

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2008—Ron Meyers

Ron Meyers

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2007—Don Reitz

Don Reitz

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2006—Paul Soldner

Paul Soldner

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2005—John Mason and Val Cushing

John Mason

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Val Cushing

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2004—Nino Caruso

Nino Caruso

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2003—Gutte Eriksen

Gutte Eriksen

More information will be available shortly.


2002—Janet Mansfield

Janet Mansfield

More information will be available shortly.


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