Campus Currents

A Love Story in Clay
Celebrating the art and teaching of Ed and Mary Scheier.

If you think frogs and slime have little to do with art, you were probably not among the lucky students who experienced the wisdom, humor and out-and-out magic of pottery classes with Ed and Mary Scheier, to be celebrated this fall with an exhibition at the UNH Museum in Dimond Library.

While their two decades of creating and teaching pottery at the university (1940-1960) may seem a distant memory, the Scheiers and their work remain firmly entrenched not only in the American studio pottery movement but in many hearts as well. Such is the quality and originality of their work, and such is the legacy they left with students and colleagues.

Besides the ubiquitous Durham clay, a fine-grained red earthenware which the Scheiers raised from local nuisance to renown, humor is said to have been the most pervasive element in the Scheier studio. Student memories include marches to the clay pits, dramatically dressed for slime and laden with gear, only to find Ed had plenty of clay already and the purpose of the trip was to catch frogs, just for fun. Two students once stayed to talk with Ed after class while he drew designs on plates with a dental pick. Only later did they realize that the plates bore caricatures of themselves. This humor clearly helped foster an atmosphere in which the Scheiers' technique, enthusiasm and wisdom could be readily absorbed, judging from the numbers of former students who have gone on to create and teach with clay themselves.

The UNH Museum's exhibit on the Scheiers begins in June in the form of a "work-in progress." As many fans of public television already know, the Scheiers were chronicled by Ken Browne in his film "Four Hands, One Heart," which Browne describes as "a love story in clay."

Like so many of the best love stories, the Scheiers' began with a chance encounter when both were WPA artists in Virginia.

Their craft was self-taught, and their hard-won experience and close collaboration is evident both in Mary's utilitarian yet graceful vessels, and Ed's startling and playful figures which adorn many of them. It is easy to understand why collectors and major museums have followed their careers so avidly.

The Scheiers also explored weaving and wood sculpture during their years in Mexico after retiring from UNH. They returned to work with clay after settling in Arizona, where Ed Scheier produced what is arguably some of his finest work.

Ed continues to produce his witty and fascinating designs to this day—on his computer, with digital paintings. A sampling will be included in the exhibit, a tribute to two people who left an indelible mark on Durham, New Hampshire and on the world of art.

(Anyone interested in sharing anecdotes or samples of their own or the Scheiers' work, may contact museum curator Dale Valena: or 603-862-1081.)

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