The Pennsylvania State University

School of Visual Arts

Liz Quackenbush

Ceramics pottery art artist school teacher professor clay glaze luster  woman
Professor of Art (Retired)
Area of Study: 
Concentration Area: 
Artist Bio Nature and the environment provide rich sources for my work as a potter. Like the natural habitat my ceramic work’s décorative imagery has evoked over the course of my career, my years are a cycle of departure and return. Autumn, winter, and spring are spent in State College, Pennsylvania, working in my studio and teaching at Penn State University. In the summers I live outside, either in a beachfront cottage at the Jersey shore or in a cabin and studio in West Fairlee, Vermont. My artistic imagery is enriched by friends, food, and outdoor physical activity. Sometimes I interpret the ecosystem of thorny berry bushes, wild turkeys, and astounding insects thriving on our hillside in Vermont. Sometimes I concentrate on my personal world, rich with get-togethers around steaming clams and salad tossed in summer herbs or traditional Thanksgiving feasts. I come from a long line of “makers”. My great-grandmothers, grandmothers, and mother all made objects to decorate and enhance the home. Waste paper baskets, key rings, pocketbooks, knitted and crocheted garments and blankets, lace linens, cut lamp-shades, sewn clothing, holiday ornaments, hand-cut wooden jigsaw puzzles, gardens, and good food are just a few examples of their homemade creations. Beautifying the home kept the hand and mind active and was valued as a generous gift to loved ones. From my family, I learned to appreciate the importance of the decorative arts. I make pots, glazed with maiolica, and then painted with patterns derived from painting, textiles, and ceramics, as well as sources found in my environment. Appreciating the great pottery of the past, I have learned to paint pottery in a traditional way. Painted folk pottery of the 13th through 16th centuries in Iran, Spain, Italy, France, Holland, and England has been most inspiring to me. This is pottery made for common people. I have hand-built and painted many pieces, repeating forms and patterns that slowly change as my hand-skills and visual vocabulary evolve. For example, the iconography on my forms combines a longtime interest in the space and color of medieval icon painting with the vitality of the Vermont countryside. My love of the earth and all its bounty becomes decoration on the surfaces of my pots. I hope my work reminds people to take a closer look at their surroundings and to appreciate the beauty served up by the earth as it makes its unending diurnal rounds. Before coming to Penn State I was a full time potter for 8 years.This is the time when I became committed to Utilitarian pottery. Throughout my career, I have enjoyed finding the balance of making art at home and in residencies, teaching wonderful students at numerous educational institutions throughout the United States and some in Europe, and living a full life. Please visit my website to see my CV. -Liz Quackenbush, 2013