Ceramics by Glenn C. Nelson
Glenn C. Nelson was born in Wisconsin in 1913. He is well- known for his ceramics along with establishing an impressive ceramics program at UMD. After he graduated from high school, Nelson spent time learning ceramics and studying art at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago until he was drafted into World War II in 1940. After serving in the South Pacific, he went on to earn a Bachelor of Science in Art Education from Milwaukee State Teachers College (1949) and his MFA from the University of Iowa (1952).
Nelson came to UMD in 1956, and it was during his time here that he spent almost 20 years until 1975 teaching ceramics to both undergraduate and graduate students while continuing to make art of his own. He also authored the book Ceramics: The Potters Handbook with five editions published between 1957 and 1983. On the university’s behalf, Nelson took trips to several different countries including Finland, Germany, and Japan. Former Tweed Museum Director and Curator Martin DeWitt indicated that while Nelson’s influence grew out of the functional clay tradition of the 1940s and 50s, he contributed “a synthesis of the applications of the Bauhaus attitude, Scandinavian elemental design considerations, and a learned sensitivity to the Asian concept of object as idea.”
In 1993, Nelson donated over one hundred works from his collection, along with funding for the first endowment for ceramic-based art to the Tweed Museum. Before this, the Tweed Museum organized a tribute exhibition of Nelson’s ceramics and many of the ceramics he collected over the years, as well as the work of several of his former students. Artist John Steffl wrote, “As a teacher, Glenn possessed many wonderful attributes, among them field work as a potter and a tremendous knowledge of ceramic art which was generously augmented by a love of art history, travel, and people. He shared a genuine concern for the personal well-being of his students, providing us with a learning opportunity rich in ideas and open to artistic expression.”