(b. 1937, Sandyville, West Virginia) lives and works in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, Stoneware pot, 1973, 20 x 11 inches, 77.36.6
Snyder received his B.A. and B.S. at Glenville State College in West Virginia and his M.F.A. at Ohio University in Athens. He also studied in Rome and Italy. In 1970 Snyder was invited to participate in an International Ceramic Symposium that was taking place in Bechyne, Czechoslovakia. The mission of the International Ceramic Symposium was to help develop a worldwide network of support for ceramic art by bringing together top ceramic artists from around the world for a month-long sharing of ideas and creation of innovative ceramics. While in Bechyne, he was inspired and encouraged to start the U.S. branch of the International Ceramic Symposiums in Tennessee. In order to make it official, he obtained legal recognition and support from both the Verband International Ceramic Symposia in Austria and the International Academic of Ceramics in Switzerland, the two bodies that organized European Symposiums. Thanks to Synder’s perseverance, in spring of 1971, the Tennessee Arts Commission pledged its support for the promotion and establishment of the U.S. International Ceramic Symposiums. A total of three were held in Tennessee—the first in Memphis in 1973, the second in Gatlinburg in 1975, and the third and final in Smithville in 1985. In 1972 Snyder was appointed the Crafts Director of the Tennessee Arts Commission, where he was in charge of organizing and directing the first and second Symposiums.
Left: Photo Courtesy Lewis Snyder Center: Raku Bowl, 1973, clay, 7 x 10 x 7 inches, 93.39.9 Right: Jar, 1973, stoneware, 12 x 8 x 7.75 inches, 93.39.197
In addition to acting as Director, Synder participated as an artist in the 1973 Memphis Symposium. Working primarily at the wheel, he threw an assortment of bowls and pots that featured his signature ruffled edges technique. He also assembled two of his “people pots,” which are quirky figurations of people in everyday life, as well as two of his “Earth Spheres,” which are spheres built from clay strips that reflect Synder’s interest in the mysteries of the universe.
Earth Sphere, Photo Courtesy Lewis Snyder
In 1972 Synder opened Studio S Pottery, a gallery and studio space committed to the design, creation, and exhibition of fine hand-made clay art work. Throughout the over 45 years that it has been running, Synder has personally taught hundreds of students the art of constructing high quality handmade ceramics. Located in a modified dairy barn beside Synder’s house in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, Studio S Pottery was one of the first privately owned studios in the southeast to offer an intern program, which provided design, technical, and practical experience while also providing marketing and promotion experience. It is also one of the handful of studios recommended by the U.S. government to produce architectural and ornamental terra cotta for use in the restoration of historical buildings. Lewis currently operates Studio S Pottery with his son, Eric Snyder.
In addition to the impact Synder has had through teaching at his studio, he has also been instrumental in establishing and promoting major art and craft associations in Tennessee. In 1964, he founded the Tennessee Association of Craft Artists (now Tennessee Craft), which is a statewide non-profit organization that supports Tennessee’s Craft Heritage. In the early 1970’s he was instrumental in researching, proposing, and securing funding for the construction and establishment of the Appalachian Center for Craft, an art school located in Smithville, TN. Synder started the Tennessee State Crafts Fair that takes place annually in Nashville, and he also co-founded the Stone Rivers Crafts Association in Murfreesboro, Tennessee.
Snyder’s work is held in the collections of the Emerson Museum of Art in Syracuse, New York; the Museum of Contemporary Craft and the Museum of Art and Design in New York City, New York; the Mint Museum in Charlotte, North Carolina; Ohio University in Athens, Ohio; the Springfield Art Museum in Springfield, Missouri; the Mississippi State College for Women in Columbus, Mississippi; Eastern Kentucky State in Richmond, Kentucky; Evansville University in Evansville, Indiana; the National Endowment for the Arts in Washington, D.C.; and internationally at the Museum of Decorative Arts in Prague, Czechoslovakia, and the International Symposium Museum in Bechyne, Czechoslovakia. Tennessee collections include Austin Peay State College, East Tennessee State University, Middle Tennessee State University, Vanderbilt University, Tennessee State Museum, Memphis Academy of Arts, and the Hunter Museum of American Art. Snyder also has work in the White House collection which includes ceramic dinnerware made for Jimmy Carter, an NEA gift for Richard Nixon, a ceremonial tray for Ronald Regan, dinnerware for George Bush Sr., and an ornament for Bill and Hillary Clinton.
As a working artist I am influenced by the age in which I live in and my immediate surrounding. Therefore these factors effect the way I use my materials and the solutions I achieve in my work. My major goals have changed very little through out my career as a clay artist but my work continues to evolve. My ambition is to continue working with clay, sometimes metal, as a sculptor, exploring the possibilities of Form, pushing the limits of my media and continuing to explore new avenues for developing glazes and other color solutions suitable for my work. – Lewis Snyder
Written by Aiden Layer, TN Arts Intern