Learning with the Masters

I received most of my art education through intensive sessions in small classes with teachers who were also working artists. Even the classes I took at University were chosen and attended as 40 plus hour per week immersions, and in most cases, one per semester. 

This page is a work in progress and includes some of my most influential teachers who are listed in no particular chronology. 

Marguerite Wildenhain and Pond Farm

I was lucky to spend four summers at Pond Farm in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s. My mother, Sue Dean, started making pottery the year I turned 14. We were living in Tennessee that year while my dad was on a sabbatical from the University of Alaska learning about computers.

Mom’s teacher was a student of a student of Marguerite’s. Several years later, mom and other Fairbanks potters invited Marguerite to teach a workshop in Fairbanks.

I was able to attend and when I asked about studying with her further, she first referred me to her former student Dean Schwarz who had South Bear School in Decorah, Iowa. I spent the summer of 1975 at South Bear, ‘made the grade,’ and was able to attend Pond Farm the next summer.

Most of us camped out for the summer and drove to the entrance of Armstrong Woods each morning where we parked and walked a mile or so through the redwood grove and up the hill to Pond Farm.

Summers at Pond Farm were a great balance to what I was learning at the Naguib School of Sculpture which I attended from 1977 through 1980. Naguib’s primary focus was on technical things, anatomy, and making things look as realistic as possible.


Here’s a good documentary about Marguerite. Keep an eye out for me in the film. I had lot’s more hair than I have now : )

Naguib School of Sculpture

While I was attending Pond Farm, my mother spent a summer at South Bear where she met some students who were attending the Naguib School of Sculpture in Beverly Shores, Indiana. It sounded very intriguing and I went on to apply. I started my 24 month stint at Naguib’s in the fall of 1977, the last session before the school moved to the old Maryknoll Seminary in Glenn Ellen, Illinois. 

Naguib School was a very small private school. Mustafa Naguib had fled the revolution in Egypt and opened his school in the US. It was a 7 day a week, 24 hour a day affair, modeling life-size figures, making molds, casting plaster and bronze and a bit of stone carving.

I spent 6 weeks one summer traveling in Italy and Sicily with my grandmother instead of attending Pond Farm. It was the perfect trip for a budding young sculptor with 2 weeks in Florence, 2 more in Rome and 2 driving around Sicily.

The seated figure on the left was my first life-size figure. The standing one on the right was done after the school moved to Illinois.

 This portrait was my very first commission.

The last year I was at Naguib’s, we built a foundry. The plaster molds were placed into a circular pit in preparation for burning the out the wax patterns. A temporary, spiral brick dome was built and grouted with wet clay. The wood fire was built and fed carefully for three days, until the whole bottom of the pit was covered with hot coals and the wax and gasses were fully evacuated from the molds.

The dome was dismantled, molds inverted, sand filled around the molds and the molten bronze poured.

One of Naguib’s favorite sayings.

I did a lot of sketching at Naguib School.

I did a lot of sketching at Naguib School.

I was fascinated by this Syrian handle maker’s plane, found in the book ‘Craftsman of Necessity.’ 

Ron Senungetuk – UAF

Ron taught in what was known as the Native Arts Center at the University of Alaska. I took a silversmithing and woodworking class with him in the winter of 1975/76. For me it was pretty much of a daylight to dark affair though my hours didn’t seem change much with the waning sunshine around Winter Solstice.

I’ll add more. For now, here is a picture of a belt buckle which, though worn by many years in the studio, I still wear daily.

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