Dorothy Bearnson

Dorothy Bearnson was born September 26, 1921. She earned her BA and MA degrees in 1943 and 1945 respectively from the University of Utah. Her graduate studies included a Fulbright Grant in Ceramics from 1956-57 in Finland. While abroad, she studied with Kyllikki Salmenhaara at the Arabia Porcelain Factory in Helsinki. During the summers of 1947, 1949, 1950, 1952, 1958, 1861 and 1964 she studied with Marguerite Wildenhain at the Pond Farm workshops in Guerneville, CA. She also studied with Shoji Hamada at San Jose State College during the summer of 1963. 

Bearnson taught at the University of Utah for more than fifty years. In 1946, she established the Ceramics Area in the Art Department. Though initially hired to teach drawing and design, she also taught pinching, coiling and slab building. Eventually a fully equipped ceramics studio was established under her guidance, finally located in an art and architecture complex completed in 1970-71. She also organized the first pottery seminars and glass blowing workshops at the University of Utah. Bearnson invited numerous guest artists to present at the University, including Wildenhain, who provided workshops on seven separate occasions.

Bearnson wrote proposals to receive a number of grants such as the Dee Grant from the Council of Dee Fellows to establish a Ceramics Center and initiate a summer seminar on American Ceramic Art History in 1992. She also was the recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts grant to sponsor an “Artists, Critics, Photographers in Residence Program” at the University of Utah in 1974. Additionally, she received several research grants from the University of Utah to work on ceramic glazes and to study the relationship of crystalline glazes to wheel-thrown forms.

During her career, Bearnson earned numerous awards. In 1997, she was elected to Phi Kappa Phi, the National Honor Society at the University of Utah. She was made an honorary member of the National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts (NCECA) in 1991. She also received a Distinguished Woman Award for “Women in Art” at a National Woman’s Conference at the University of Utah in 1977. In 1999, she was awarded the 10th Governor Award celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Utah Arts Council. A number of retrospective exhibitions have been held to recognize her work such as “Dorothy Bearnson Celebrates Fifty Years of Teaching” organized by the Gittins Gallery at the University of Utah Art Department in 1997. Former and current students celebrated Bearnson’s career in the exhibition “Ceramic Ties” at the University of Utah in 1999. In 2002, the Springville Museum of Art honored Bearnson with an exhibition, “Dorothy Bearnson. One of One Hundred Most Honored Artists in Utah.” 

Source of Biography
Cox, David. “Dorothy Bearnson: University of Utah’s Pioneer Ceramicist.” Ceramics Monthly. 47:7 (September 1999), 60-64; Ripples: Marguerite Wildenhain and her Pond Farm Students. Curated by Billie Sessions. San Bernardino, CA: California State University, 2002; Pond Farm Collection: Works of Art Created by Students Who Studied with Marguerite Wildenhain at her Pond Farm Studio. Text by Jane Kemp. Decorah, IA: Luther College, 2003
Related collection
Pond Farm Works