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Jerry Caplan

Biography to Display: 

Born 1923 Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Died 2004 Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania



BFA Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

MFA Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania



1959-1988 Professor of Art, Chatham College, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania,

1962-1972 and 1983-1984 Chairman, Art Department, Chatham College, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

1961-2001 Pittsburgh Center for the Arts, Pittsburg, Pennsylvania



Jerry Caplan is known for experimental multimedia sculpture utilizing clay, industrial ceramic pipes, metal hardware, etc., his invention of techniques and processes and his extensive teaching career.

Caplan served in the 84th Engineer Battalion, where he helped manufacture and photograph dummy boats, tanks, and other military machinery. Later, Caplan worked in the pipe industry which influenced his sculpture.

During his career Caplan experimented with many innovative techniques, such as sculptures which began as giant extruded pipes. To eliminate the tasks of scoring and applying slip, he  used metal nails to build ceramic sculptures. In a Ceramics Monthly article from May1989 he described this process as: “Using nails as a fastener instead of slip results in a much more spontaneous joint and allows one to literally ‘draw in the air’…nailing clay is not unlike nailing wood except that clay has tremendous plasticity and can be bent or warped[1].”

Caplan developed many processed for working with clay, one he named “reduction stenciling.” Utilizing the potential of the raku firing’s reduction process, he developed a stencil technique to control the black patterning on a clay surface.

As the son of Ukrainian Jewish Immigrants, Caplan was also recognized for his creative work with in the Jewish community of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.


 [1] Jerry Caplan, “Clay, Nails, and Smoke.” Ceramics Monthly. May 1989, p. 76. 



Public Collections

Public Collections to Display: 

American Museum of Ceramic Art, Pomona, California

Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania


Bibliography to Display: 




Center for CraftCenter For Craft



AMOCA American Museum of Ceramic ArtAMOCA American Museum of Ceramic Art


Typical Marks

Inscribed “Caplan” in cursive, with the year.

Date: 1977
Method: Hand-Built
Dimensions: 1.9 inches in diameter
Surface Technique: Glaze, Raku
American Museum of Ceramic Art, gift of The American Ceramic Society, 2004.2.113
Photo: TMP
American Museum of Ceramic Art, gift of The American Ceramic Society, 2004.2.113
Photo: TMP
Photo: TMP

Citation: "The Marks Project." Last modified June 21, 2023.