Don Reitz, an internationally renowned artist in dirt and salt, died on March 19 at his home in Clarkdale, Ariz. He was 84.
A ceramicist — with typical puckish pragmatism he preferred to describe his chosen medium as dirt instead of clay — Mr. Reitz was one of a small cadre of midcentury artisans who expanded the medium to include immense, intellectually provocative works of abstract art.
At his death, he was an emeritus professor at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, where he taught for a quarter-century before his retirement in 1988. His work is in the collections of the Smithsonian Institution, the Museum of Arts and Design in New York, the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston and elsewhere.You may read more of that article if you wish, HERE.
He was known in particular for reviving the centuries-old technique of salt firing, in which salt added to a hot kiln yields textured surfaces far different from those made with conventional glazes.
From The Times...Mr. Reitz’s style was characterized by “a kind of tension between a respect for classical pottery form and a really kind of brash, impetuous approach to working with wet clay,” Jody Clowes, the curator of “Don Reitz: Clay, Fire, Salt and Wood,” a touring exhibition of 2005, said in an interview on Friday.
Donald Lester Reitz was born on Nov. 7, 1929, in Sunbury, Pa., and reared in Belvidere, N.J. Dyslexic, he preferred working with his hands to schoolwork.
Enlisting in the Navy in 1948, he spent five years as a salvage diver and afterward plied a series of trades — truck driver, sign painter — before settling into a career as a butcher.
“In a way, it is an art,” Mr. Reitz wrote in a 1991 autobiographical essay in the magazine Ceramics Monthly. “You have to know how to cut and display your product, everything from putting bootees on lamb chops to arranging a crown roast. I could cut rosettes on a ham so that when it was baked, they opened up in beautiful patterns.”
But with time, he began to chafe among the meat. Enrolling at Kutztown State Teacher’s College in Pennsylvania, he studied painting; after earning a bachelor’s degree in art education there in 1957, he taught in the Dover, N.J., public schools.
Mr. Reitz had discovered ceramics in his last semester of college, and that, he soon realized, was his true calling. Installing a wheel in his house and a kiln outside it, he began making pots, which he attempted to sell at a roadside stand.
No one stopped until he also began offering homegrown vegetables. People bought the vegetables, and he gave them the pots at no charge.
From the New York State College of Ceramics, part of Alfred University in western New York, Mr. Reitz earned a master of fine arts degree in 1962. He joined the Wisconsin faculty that year.
Don Reitz taught in the University of Wisconsin–Madison art department from 1962 to 1988. In 2002 he received one of the highest honors in his field when the American Craft Council awarded him their Gold Medal.
But the proof is in the pudding (to use a really lame metaphor). A University of Wisconsin publication about him (photo below) is now out of print.
|NC Clay Club (this came from the web)|
So we are having a short video of his firing an Anagama in Arizona with Charles Freeland (our manager) for the Clay Club party/meet on Nov. 12 at the Black Mountain Clay Studio. Just wanted you to know a bit of what he was like, in case you didn't know yet.