Chris Gustin

South Dartmouth, MA



Born in 1952 in Chicago, Illinois, I grew up in Los Angeles, California, where I was surrounded by ceramics from an early age. My family were part owners of several commercial whiteware ceramic manufacturing companies. Spending my childhood around ceramic factories, it was an obvious choice for me to go into the family business.

After taking a pottery class at a local clay studio in Venice Beach while in high school, I went to the University of California, Irvine in 1970, where I studied biology and sociology. Because of my interest in clay, I also took an introductory studio ceramic course with John Mason. After a semester of college, I took a summer job at one of my father’s factories, located in Pasadena, California. I decided that I wanted to continue working in the family business, so in the fall of 1970, when I was 18 years old, I quit school and became the factory foreman and manager at Wildwood Ceramics, which I ran until 1972. Two years of running a small commercial ceramics factory was an apprenticeship that has since proved invaluable in my career.

During my time at Wildwood, I was still making wheel-thrown pottery. Having decided that the studio side of ceramics was of greater interest to me, I left the factory in 1972 to attend the Kansas City Art Institute, from which I received my BFA in ceramics in 1975. I then went on to graduate school at the New York State College of Ceramics at Alfred University, where I received my MFA in 1977.

I established my first clay studio in 1977 in Guilford, Connecticut with my sister-in-law Jane Gustin. We shared the studio for five years, where we each produced functional and sculptural pottery. During this time, I was invited to teach at Parson’s School of Design in New York, where I was an instructor in the Crafts Department from 1978 to 1980. In 1980, I began teaching at the Program in Artisanry at Boston University, where I was Assistant Professor of Ceramics. In 1985, the Program in Artisanry moved to the Swain School of Design in New Bedford, Massachusetts, where I became Associate Professor of Ceramics and head of the ceramics program. Swain School subsequently merged in 1988 with Southeastern Massachusetts University, now the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth.

It was during my tenure at Boston University in 1982, that I moved my studio from Connecticut to South Dartmouth, Massachusetts, where I purchased and renovated an 8000 square-foot building that was an old chicken farm. This building became both my studio and my living space.

In 1986, I became involved with a small group of artists interested in saving and preserving an old brick factory in southeast Maine. With Peg Griggs’ generous donation of the property, she, George Mason, Lynn Duryea, and I founded the Watershed Center for the Ceramic Arts in Newcastle, Maine. Watershed is now thriving, offering summer and winter residencies to artists from around the world.

I became interested in the production of tile in 1994 when my wife and I began to design our new home. I made all of the tiles for the new house, and out of that experience, I started Gustin Ceramics Tile Production in 1996. The tile company offered me another way to work with ceramics and has grown significantly over the years. The tile is represented nationally by architects, designers and tile showrooms.

I was Associate Professor of Ceramics and the senior faculty of the ceramics program during my ten-year tenure at the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth. After twenty years of teaching and working with hundreds of undergraduate and graduate students, in the summer of 1999 I retired from academia to devote myself full-time and energy to my studio work and the tile production company.

Artist Statement

I am interested in pottery that make connections to the human figure. The figurative analogies used to describe pots throughout history all in some way invite touch. The pots that I respond to all speak of a clear, direct sense of the hand. The hand is celebrated in the work by its maker, whether it is that of a fifteenth-century rural potter or a nineteenth-century court artisan. And it becomes a necessary tool for the user in understanding the relationship of the object to its function, and subsequently, to how that object informs one’s life.

Though most of my work only alludes to function, I use the pot context because of its immense possibilities for abstraction. The skin of the clay holds the invisible interior of the vessel. How I manipulate my forms “around” that air, constraining it, enclosing it, or letting it expand and swell, can allow analogy and metaphor to enter into the work.

I want my work to provoke image to the viewer, to suggest something that is just on the other side of consciousness. I don’t want my pots to conjure up a singular recollection, but ones that change with each glance, with each change of light. I use surfaces that purposely encourage touch, and by inviting the hand to explore the forms as well as the eye, I hope to provoke numerous memories, recollections that have the potential to change from moment to moment.

Available Work

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