Skip to main content

Robert Sperry papers, 1951-2002

Sperry, Robert H., 1927-1998


Collection Information

Size: 13.6 linear ft.

Summary: The collection documents Sperry's career as an artist and teacher through biographical information, correspondence, exhibition files, gallery files, material on projects and workshops, writings, a scrapbook, financial files, printed material, photographs, films, and artwork. Biographical files contain items outlining Sperry's career including resumes, teaching evaluations, awards, and interviews. Correspondence includes general correspondence with family, friends, colleagues, schools, galleries, art organizations, and publications as well as named files for those with whom Sperry exchanged a significant amount of correspondence over a long period of time. The Exhibition Files contain materials on group and solo exhibitions Robert Sperry participated in, while Gallery Files hold material, such as correspondence and contracts, related to the galleries which exhibited Sperry's work primarily after 1979. The Project and Workshop Files in Series 5 contain material related to public commissions he completed and workshops he gave during the 1980s and 1990s.
Writings encompass writings by Sperry and others. Sperry's writings vary greatly and include drafts of articles, a family history, poetry, notes and a screenplay, while writings by others are primarily essays on art. Sperry compiled a scrapbook which spans 1955 to 1964 and includes correspondence and printed material about exhibitions and newspaper clippings which feature his artwork. He and his wife, Patti Warashina, also compiled financial records primarily of their business and living expenses from 1976 to 1984 and earnings as artists and professors at the University of Washington.
The largest series in this collection, Printed Material, provides information largely on Sperry's career through press clippings, exhibition announcements, catalogs, and publications, and also includes other materials on ceramics in general. The Photographs series contains both photos and negatives from Sperry's trip to Japan to film "Village Potters of Onda" as well as photographs of his artwork and his family. Also found in this collection are a few sketches and drawings by Sperry and one drawing by Patti Warashina. Moving image material includes video recordings and motion picture film with a wide range of content. Video recordings include two documentaries on Sperry, studio footage, exhibition footage. Motion picture film includes footage for Sperry's film "Profiles Cast Long Shadows" as well as other short films in a range of styles, including animation, hand coloring, abstract, and narrative films by Sperry. Film available on DVD include "Familiar Thickets", Celanton Painting", "Room", "Hamada", Skull Waves at Deception Pass", "Family", "Experimental Color Print", and "Food Color".

Biographical/Historical Note

Ceramicist, filmmaker, professor of ceramics; Seattle, Wash.; b. 1927; d. 1998. Born in Illinois, Robert Sperry completed his B.A. at the University of Saskatchewan in 1950 and a B.F.A. at the Art Institute of Chicago in 1953. He completed his M.F.A. at the University of Washington, where he stayed to teach ceramics until retiring in 1982. Sperry widely exhibited his clay vessels in group and solo exhibitions and was active in the American Craft Council. Robert Sperry also pursued interests in photography and filmmaking and in 1963 traveled to Japan to complete a documentary film project "Village Potters of Onda". In 1976, Robert Sperry married Patti Warashina, fellow ceramicist and professor at the University of Washington.


Donated 2003- 2004 by Patti Warashina, Sperry's widow, as a part of the Nanette L. Laitman Documentation Project for Craft and Decorative Art in America.