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Maija Grotell

Biography to Display: 

1899Born Helsinki, Finland

1973Died Pontiac, Michigan

EDUCATION

1920Graduated, The Ateneum, the Central School of Industrial Art, Helsinki, Finland

1927Immigrated to the United States

1927Summer study, New York State College of Ceramics, Alfred University, Alfred, New York

PRIMARY WORK EXPERIENCE

1927-1928Instructor, Inwood Pottery Studios, New York, New York

1928-1929Teacher for children, Union Settlement, New York, New York

1929-1938Instructor, Henry Street Craft School, New York, New York

1936-1938Faculty and Research Assistant, Rutgers University, Newark, New Jersey

1938-1966Head of Ceramics Department, Cranbrook Academy of Art, Bloomfield Hills, Michigan

 

Maija Grotell’s work developed from low-fired figurative pots to simplified geometric forms in stoneware and porcelain. Her work displays a keen awareness of the natural world. She became a master of simple, thrown pots finished using brushed-on, colored slips, glazes and carved surfaces.

Grotell received her initial professional education in Finland at the School of Industrial Art where she studied painting, design and sculpture. After completing this education, she worked for six years with the artist-potter, Alfred William Finch.

In 1927 she immigrated to the United States and began her ceramics studies in a summer-school class taught by Charles Fergus Binns at Alfred University. She settled in New York City, taught at the Henry Street Craft School and independently did research in glazes and Art Deco patterns.

In 1938 Grotell joined Cranbrook as head of the Ceramics Department and, by the time of her retirement in 1966, is credited with reestablishing Cranbrook as a premier clay education program. Among her students were Richard DeVore, Toshiko Takaezu, John Glick and Jeff Schlanger.

In the 1930s Grotell’s surface patterns moved away from geometric designs toward textured fields with linear accents. She favored simple cylindrical and spherical forms, and sought new approaches to their surface treatment. In the 1940s she worked with unglazed colored clay vessels that had tooled or textured surfaces. This approach was also used by Glen Lukens, Marguerite Wildenhain and Laura Andreson. During this period, Grotell continued her research into glazes and glaze problems.

Grotell developed copper reds, ash glazes, intense blues and crackle glazes. She discovered that using a Bristol-type glaze over Albany slip created pits and pin holes unaffected by firing. She worked to control this phenomena resulting in her prize winning Leopard Skin vase (1949).

In the 1950s she worked with merging the two techniques of multiple colored slip layers and the next generation of ‘bubbled glaze’ surfaces. She was able to create an overall highly textured and animated surface by cutting through the surface glaze to the colored contrasting slips beneath. 

Her glaze formulas remain part of her legacy. One of her glaze formulas was requested by architect Eliel Saarinen to be used on bricks. This opened the door to the architectural uses of colored bricks in mid-20th century architecture.

The Maija Grotell papers including correspondence, memorobilia and photographic files from a Gift of the estate of Maija Grotell, 1974 and 1975, are housed in the Special Collections Research Center, Syracuse University Libraries, Syracuse, New York. A finding aid is available at:
http://library.syr.edu/digital/guides/g/grotell_m.htm.

Public Collections

Bibliography

Bibliography to Display: 

Clark, Garth, and Margie Hughto. A Century of Ceramics in the United States, 1878-1978. New York, NY: E.P. Dutton, 1979.

Levin, Elaine. “Maija Grotell." American Ceramics, (Winter 1982).

Levin, Elaine. The History of American Ceramics:From Pipkins and Bean Pots to Contemporary Forms, 1607 to the Present. New York, NY: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 1988.

Schlanger, Jeff. “Maija Grotell.” Craft Horizons, November/December 1969.

____________. “Working Through the Archives: An Artist’s View.” The NCECA Journal, 1998.

________, and Takaezu Toshiko. Maija Grotell: Works Which Grow From Belief. Goffstown, NH: Studio Potter Books, 1996.

Robert Silberman. “The First Moderns.” American Craft, February/March 1989.

 

CV or Resume: Click Here to Download

 

Typical Marks
1940
1945
ca. 1950
ca. 1951
Vase
Date: 1940
Form: Vase
Materials: Stoneware
Method: Thrown
Surface Technique: Glaze
Metropolitan Museum of Art Collection,  Purchase, Edward C. Moore Jr. Gift, 1940, 40.153.1
Photo: Metropolitan Museum
Metropolitan Museum of Art Collection, Purchase, Edward C. Moore Jr. Gift, 1940, 40.153.1
Photo: TMP
Photo: TMP
Vase
Date: 1945
Form: Vase
Materials: Stoneware
Method: Thrown
Surface Technique: Glaze, Slip Trailing
 Everson Museum of Art Collection, Purchase Prize Gift, Encyclopedia Brittanica, 11th Ceramic National, 1946
Photo: John Polak
Everson Museum of Art Collection, Purchase Prize Gift, Encyclopedia Brittanica, 11th Ceramic National, 1946
Photo: John Polak
Small Bowl
Date: ca. 1950
Form: Bowl
Method: Thrown
Surface Technique: Glaze
Everson Museum of Art Collection
Photo: John Polak
Everson Museum of Art Collection
Photo: John Polak
Bowl
Date: ca. 1951
Form: Bowl
Materials: Earthenware
Method: Thrown
Surface Technique: Glaze
Brooklyn Museum Gift of H. Randolph Lever Fund 1985
Photo: Brooklyn Museum Creative Commons_BY
Brooklyn Museum Gift of H. Randolph Lever Fund 1985
Photo: Brooklyn Museum Creative Commons_BY
Shallow Bowl
Form: Bowl
Method: Thrown
Surface Technique: Glaze
Courtesy Rago Arts and Auction
Photo: TMP
Courtesy Rago Arts and Auction
Photo: TMP
Photo: TMP
Deep Bowl
Form: Bowl
Method: Thrown
Surface Technique: Glaze
Courtesy Rago Arts and Auction
Photo: TMP
Courtesy Rago Arts and Auction
Photo: TMP
Photo: TMP

Citation: "The Marks Project." Last modified November 6, 2018. http://www.themarksproject.org:443/marks/grotell