Karl Martz and the Legacy of Indiana University Ceramics

Exhibition: May 4 – July 27, 2019
Opening Reception: May 3, 6 to 8 PM

Martz’s influence spread throughout Indiana and beyond through the ceramics program that he established at IU in 1945, and through his students. Many of Martz’s students went on to teach at universities, and others established successful careers as independent ceramic artists.

The exhibition will feature works by Karl Martz, faculty that taught (or still teach) in the IU Ceramics Department, and students who went on to establish successful careers in ceramics.

Karl and his wife, Becky Brown, were important in the lives of his students and others who worked with him. Virginia Scotchie says: “I feel so honored to have known Karl Martz and his wife …such talented and fantastic people.” 

The Haan Museum will host a Lunch and Learn event related to the exhibition on June 4. Check back for additional activities and more details.

More About Karl Martz

The following information is from Wikipedia, MartzPots, and Clay Times Three.

Martz’s first experience with pottery was when Karl, who was then a chemistry student at IU, was asked for advice on improving the glazes for Brown County Pottery. A six-week course in ceramics at Ohio State University in 1931 sparked his interest in ceramics. Ceramics classes were not offered, but he squeezed in as many art classes as he could. After graduating in 1933, he worked at Brown County Pottery for the summer. He returned in 1934 as an apprentice, earning $5 a week.

Martz married Becky Brown in 1935, and decided to start his own pottery. His first kiln was a 20-gallon crock with the bottom knocked out to create a draft. He dripped oil into a pan under the crock to create a big flame. He got nice glazes, but the kiln created heavy smoke, so Karl’s dad financed a real kiln. He sold his pottery through the Brown County Folks Shop.

Times were lean until Scott Murphy, from Marion Indiana, saw Karl’s work in 1937, and helped Martz move his studio to the Pink House. It was closer to town and accessible to tourists, and Murphy created an artistic ambiance. Martz finally had a comfortable, well-equipped space that allowed him to become a master potter and glaze expert. He received wide acclaim for his one-of-a-kind pieces.

Martz and his family, which now included two sons, moved to Chicago in 1942 when he accepted a job there. Karl worked at a ceramic testing lab for a few months, and then became assistant ceramist for Armour Research Foundation. He taught pottery classes to keep his creative side busy.

Martz accepted an offer to start a ceramics program in the new Fine Arts Department at Indiana University in 1945. He also taught pottery classes to the public during the summer recreation classes. His classes were so popular that IU had to add two evening classes, one of which was taught by Karl’s student, Dave Hostetler.  Martz was the only full-time ceramics instructor until John Goodheart joined the faculty in 1974.

Martz purchased property near Brown County State Park in 1947, and the family lived on the property in two tents during the summer of 1949.  The family moved back to Nashville in 1950 to build a house, which was a work in process for 10 years. They opened the Martz Studio in 1950, and Karl commuted to Bloomington to continue teaching. Becky was able to try new things and make more creative pottery. Both Karl and Becky contributed greatly to the quality of life, as well as the quality of art, wherever they went.