Betty Woodman. Utility and the Domestic

Betty Woodman in her studio, Boulder, Colorado, 1961.
artist working on ceramic pieces in studio
Betty Woodman in her studio, Boulder, Colorado, 1961. Photo by George Woodman. Courtesy of Charles Woodman.

When Betty Woodman graduated from the School for American Craftsmen at Alfred University, New York, in 1950, she taught pottery classes and made production pottery—plates, bowls, cups, and saucers for domestic use. Her love for clay arrived early. In high school, she was drawn to the “magic of making something out of nothing”1 and the usefulness of the ceramic object. She saw making pottery as a mode of serving society—putting something useful into the world. Woodman worked out of a studio behind her house in Boulder, developing a strong technical sense and a relationship with form through repetition. As she began experimenting with more extravagant forms, the image of the container remained an anchoring concept. And when she expanded the pot’s form to painting and sculptural installation, she returned to ideas about the domestic—the ceramic object’s familiar place in the home. For her 2016 exhibition Theatre of the Domestic at the Institute of Contemporary Arts, London, Woodman created the illusion of interior spaces. Paintings were laid on the floor like rugs with vases placed on top, and a composition of clay slab cutouts—leftover pieces from her studio practice—looked like decorative wallpaper.

  1. Betty Woodman, artist talk with curator Vincenzo de Bellis, Institute of Contemporary Arts, London, February 3, 2016 (posted February 18, 2016), video, 1:10:30 hours, available at ↩︎