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Richard Peeler at work in his Reelsville, IN studio
Stoneware with vitreous engobes

"Wife, Marj, and I have been working together in the pottery for 50 years (since Jan. 1948). Since 1972 we have made our living from our pottery and sculpture, and we feel grateful and blessed that we have been able to make a nice living doing something we love doing. We do not enter competitions or art fairs. We just stay home and work and sell. I studied with Jerry Merek, and with Karl Martz at Indiana University. And I have learned from every artist-craftsmen I have known".

Richard Peeler (1926-1998)





Our house is rammed earth (clay). It is our largest pot or our largest sculpture??
Intererior View

Studio and Yard

Richard Peeler has had a positive influence on thousands of people who during his lifetime learned to work with clay. He taught in high school and college as well as producing of the most widely used ceramic instruction tapes in the world. In 1972 Peeler retired from teaching and started working full time producing both utilitarian pottery and sculpture from clay. The potter's wheel was the foundation for most of his work and he never stopped using it as his main tool during the fifty years that he produced ceramic art.

Peeler's work is based on fundamental design elements with an emphasis on the relationship of form to nature. His motivation and inspiration often came from natural forms. Richard said, "Nature was the ultimate vessel maker." His work was often a mirror of nature, but other times he intended it to be a symbol or metaphor for nature. He never strayed far from his convictions about the beauty of natural structure. Whether it was a small coffee cup, or a huge outdoor sculpture the same design sense and care gave his work unity.

Many of the sculptural works that he has done refer to the vessel in literal and abstract ways. Marj Peeler told me that "Abstract Sculpture Resembling a Round Pot" was one his favorite works. This title itself is an excellent example of the duality in the perception of pottery. Richard had a sharp sense of the dual purpose that pottery often occupied. Throughout his career he made utilitarian and non-utilitarian ceramics concurrently. This was not a problem to him, but others often asked him if it was frustrating to make small useful pots when he was an internationally recognized sculptor and artist. Again the common assumption that utility diminishes an objects value as a higher art is evident.

I had many discussions with him about the nature of function and utility. Once when a visitor to his studio asked what a non-utilitarian sculpture, that had been made on the potter's wheel, was for, Mr. Peeler replied, "It is art." Later I asked him for more insight on this encounter. He told me that if a ceramic creation is not to be used, but only looked at then he believed it operated on a more sculptural level whether it was a round vase or a free form sculpture.

Does this mean that any pottery objects when placed in an environment specifically for aesthetic reasons can transcend its original utilitarian functions? It would seem to support that there could be dual meaning to pottery depending upon its environment. Richard was often irritated with the intellectualizing and misinterpretation of his artwork, but when pressed he would admit that he thought all pottery operated as sculpture.

Before his death in 1998 Richard was honored in the NCECA (National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts) catalog HEROS, ICONS HISTORY, MEMORY.


Butler University, Indianapolis, IN
DePauw University, Greencastle, IN BA
Indiana University MA

Career Summary:

1958-1972 Teaching Elementary school, Arsenal Technical High School, DePauw University
1965-68 Produced 8 educational ceramic films for McGraw-Hill. These were the most widely used films for ceramic instruction. Some Ceramic Art Films were transferred to video and are still used today.
1972-1998 Operated Peeler Pottery in Reelsville, IN with his wife, Marj.

(Todd Wagoner From "HEROS, ICONS, HISTORY and MEMORY". 1998 NCECA Honors and Fellow Exhibition Fort Worth, Texas. 1998)



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