Dean Schwarz was born in 1938 in Cedar Rapids, IA. He graduated from Iowa State Teachers College (now the University of Northern Iowa) in 1960, and then earned an MA in art from that institution in 1961. After serving in the U.S. Navy during the 1960s, Dean visited several ceramics studios, notably those of Shoji Hamada in Japan and Marguerite Wildenhain at Pond Farm in Guerneville, CA. He began studying with Wildenhain in 1964, frequently attending her summer Pond Farm workshops until her retirement. Eventually he was also her teaching associate. In 1968, he also studied with William Daley at the Haystack Mountain School of Crafts in Deer Isle, ME.
Dean taught art at Luther College from 1964 to 1986. During that time he developed the ceramics program and served for several years as chair of the department. He also founded South Bear School, a summer arts school devoted to pottery, painting, and poetry. Wildenhain was a frequent visitor to the school. In 1971 he received a Fulbright Fellowship to study and teach ceramics in South Korea. His research also led him to travel widely including leading several study abroad trips with Luther students to Panama to study pre-Columbian ceramics in the early 1970s. More recently, Dean has traveled frequently to Germany, studying the Bauhaus and its influence on Wildenhain.
In the late 1970s, Dean and his family established the South Bear Press which has published a number of art-related books. Most of these texts focus on Wildenhain, including Dean’s 770-page anthology on the history and legacy of the German pottery tradition, Marguerite and the Bauhaus: An Eyewitness Anthology. Several are listed in the Reference section at the end of this essay.
Dean developed his ceramics style during the years since he became an independent potter. Since injuring his back, he has begun a collaboration with his son, Gunnar. While Gunnar throws most of the pots, frequently very large vessels, Dean concentrates on designing and decorating the pots’ surfaces. Their collaboration was recognized in 2007 with an exhibit entitled Dean and Gunnar Schwarz: Pottery Form and Inherent Expression, at the University of Northern Iowa galleries.
The Luther College Fine Arts Collection contains over twenty ceramics works by Dean. These include tiles which are considered a single work of art, an interpretation of Biblical texts, for a wall in the Chapel of the Center for Faith and Life. Other ceramic works are candle holders, urns, jars, vases and bowls. The three ceramic works in the Pond Farm Collection were the result of collaborations between Dean and Gunnar Schwarz. The footed bowl is wheel-thrown, squeezed into an oval shape on a tapered base with a flared foot. A decorative band of stylized Indian teepees circles the body of the vessel in tan and brown. The interior is glazed a shiny green. Dean and Gunnar also donated two bowls from their My Grandfather’s Hat series (recognizing four sea captains in the 15th century). One is oval, with a triangular decoration near the rim on both sides. The second bowl is glazed brown shaped in a globular tricorn form with tan and blue bands circling the exterior. Decorations of a sailboat, navigational aids, and life preserver are on three sides. The interior is glazed shiny brown.