Maija Grotell

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Maija Grotell
Born August 19, 1899
Helsinki, Finland
Died December 6, 1973 (1973-12-07) (aged 74)
Pontiac, Michigan, United States
Nationality Finnish (naturalized U.S. citizen, 1934)
Known for Ceramics
Awards Diploma di Colabrador, Barcelona International Exhibition (1929);
Silver Medal, Paris International Exhibition (1937);
Excellence in Teaching Award, the National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts (1999, awarded posthumously)
Vase, 1935

Maija Grotell (August 19, 1899 – December 6, 1973) was a ceramics artist and teacher. She is sometimes described as the “mother of American ceramics”.[1][2][3][4] Grotell was born in Helsinki, Finland, and emigrated to New York in 1927. After arriving in New York she studied at the New York State College of Ceramics at Alfred University. From 1927 until 1938 she taught at various positions in New York City, ultimately departing the city to take a position as head of the ceramics department at the Cranbrook Academy of Art in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, where one of her colleagues was the architect Eliel Saarinen. Grotell retired from Cranbrook in 1966. She died on December 6, 1973, in Pontiac, Michigan.

Grotell was considered to be an innovative and gifted teacher, and was known for her experiments in glaze technology. Indeed, at the request of Saarinen, she developed the glaze that was used on the ceramic exterior walls at the General Motors Technical Center.[5] She won a number of awards during her career, including the Diploma di Colabrador at the Barcelona International Exhibition in 1929, the silver medal at the Paris International Exhibition (1937), and the Cranbrook Academy of Art Faculty Medal (1966). She also received the 1999 Excellence in Teaching Award (posthumous) from the National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts.[6] During her career she had solo shows at (among others) the Art Institute of Chicago (1950), the Cranbrook Museum (1952), the Joe and Emily Lowe Art Center of Syracuse University, and the Museum of Contemporary Crafts (1967). Her works are represented in the permanent collections of many museums.[7][8]


  1. ^ Lecture, Roy Slade, Cranbrook Academy of Art President 1977-1995
  2. ^ The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman
  3. ^ The Houghton Mifflin Dictionary of Biography
  4. ^ University of Tennessee press release
  5. ^ Maija Grotell in Dictionary of Women Artists, Volume 1, edited by Delia Gaze
  6. ^ List of recipients, NCECA
  7. ^ Biography and inventory of papers, Syracuse University
  8. ^ Maija Grotell: Works Which Grow From Belief, by Jeff Schlanger and Toshiko Takaezu (1996) (excerpt)

Other reading[edit]

Maija Grotell: Works Which Grow From Belief, by Jeff Schlanger and Toshiko Takaezu (1996)

Ceramics Today Featured Artist

Studio Potter Magazine Book Review