|Birth Date: August 19, 1899
|Death Date: December 6, 1973
|Maija Grotell was one of the most influential teachers and potters for the contemporary ceramic field. Born in Finland, Grotell studied painting, design and sculpture at the Central School of Arts and Crafts in Helsinki. After graduation in 1920/21, she continued her studies in industrial ceramics and textiles. In 1927, at the age of 28 Grotell immigrated to New York and studied pottery at Alfred University. From 1928-1938, she taught the underprivileged at the Henry Street Craft School. In 1928, Grotell became the head of the ceramics department Cranbrook Academy of Art, where she taught until her retirement in 1966.
Grotell expected her students to have already mastered the nuts and bolts of their technique. She favored 2 forms; the cylinder and the sphere. Grotell eventually abandoned the Art Deco designs for more textured surface with linear accents. During the 40s she explored the unglazed textured surfaces using color in the clay bodies. As a teacher, she said “I am against influence. Good potters must develop their own approach”. John Glick, one of her students said “Grotell taught her students to love the search in making pots”. She was constantly experimenting and said “once I have mastered a form, a glaze, an idea, I lose interest and move on to something else… This helps as a teacher but not as an exhibitor”.
Some of Grotell’s students include Richard DeVore, Toshiko Takaezu, John Glick, Susanne Stephenson, Jeff Schlanger and Harvey Littleton.
“Even after her death in 1973 at the age of 74, students could still feel the force of her personality. Her presence still exists in my studio," said one student. "It is as if another person is present who knows exactly what I am about. I always have the feeling that I must try harder…"