Lewis & Clark lost a great figure and the heart of the ceramics community when Associate Professor Emeritus of Art Ted Vogel, commonly known as “Ted,” passed away in July 2019. For the past 25 years, Ted taught and inspired students and colleagues alike. Ted could always be found in the studio helping a student or sharing a laugh, contributing to the close-knit ceramics community on campus. I was one of many fortunate students able to learn and grow under his mentorship. To me and many others, Ted was more than just a college professor.
Throughout his life, Ted sustained a great commitment to arts education and had a profound impact on the arts community. Together with the Aubrey R. Watzek Library staff, he founded the website accessceramics.org, a one-of-a-kind online contemporary ceramics source and database, which has received a number of grants and awards in arts education development.
Associate Professor of Art and Studio Head of Sculpture Jess Perlitz reflected on Ted’s emphasis on the community.
“I miss Ted,” Perlitz said. “So many people are missing him right now. Ted wanted students to work hard. He also believed deeply in the importance of community.”
Striving to give back, Ted served on the Board of Directors of the National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts (NCECA). He also helped coordinate the 2006 NCECA conference in Portland, as well as the annual Bowl-a-Thon at LC where ceramic bowls are thrown to help fundraise for the hungry. By devoting himself to the community, Ted forged many relationships that he deeply cherished.
What people may not commonly know is that, in addition to being a ceramics professor, Ted was also a devoted practicing artist. Working in multiple mediums, he created both large-scale installations and more intimate works, often incorporating natural motifs like birds, feathers, branches and stumps. His art often focused on the human experience and our deep complex connection to nature and all of humankind. Director of the Aubrey R. Watzek Library Mark Dahl commented on the humble nature of Ted’s identity as an artist.
“Driving around his full-sized truck and usually dressed for the studio, the kiln or his ranch in Wyoming, one might not immediately pick up on the fact that Ted was a world-class artist,” Dahl said on the Access Ceramics website.
Ted’s art can be found in numerous collections internationally. He has been a visiting artist at the National College of Art & Design, the oldest art institution in Ireland and did a residency at Zentrum für Keramik, a ceramics center in Berlin. He also taught workshops in a wide range of colleges, universities and art centers. He even worked as an assistant director at the Archie Bray Foundation, one of the most prominent ceramics institutions in the country.
“I have always been a collector of objects, and a maker of spare parts,” Ted wrote in the opening of his artist statement on his website.
Those objects, both sculptural and utilitarian pieces made by his friends and Ted himself, would often stand for special people and moments in his life. Thinking of the time he visited Ted’s house, Harrison Rosenblum ’16 recalled how Ted saw ceramic pieces as continuations of relationships.
“He would have you choose a mug off of this huge shelf that corresponded with some memory or relationship,” Rosenblum said. “It became linked to you and you became part of the web of his physical memories.”
While many reflect on Ted’s sentimental nature, few forget his rigorous demand for excellence. If he saw unrealized potential, he would not accept anything other than one’s best effort. Even though he was known for being difficult to please, he took a formative role in the lives of his students. Abigail Freed ’17, one of his former students, discussed the way he motivated her both in and out of the ceramics studio.
“In Ted, I found encouragement, recognition and support both academically and emotionally,” Freed said. “Ted made me feel proud of myself and my accomplishments.”
Ted passed away the same year he retired as an associate professor.
“His recent retirement meant we all had the opportunity to celebrate what he held so close, including how integral teaching and Lewis & Clark were to his life,” Perlitz said. “Now as we are faced with this real loss I want to make sure to honor what he held dear.”
A celebration of life will be held at 2 p.m. on Sept. 22 at the Agnes Flanagan Chapel, followed by a reception in Stamm Dining Room. Ash Street Project at 524 SE Ash St. will also hold a potluck at 4 p.m, together with an exhibition of his work. Memorial contributions in his honor may be given to the pending Ted Vogel Scholarship Fund at the Archie Bray Foundation or to the Ted Vogel Tullis Summer Studio Project.
As long as I knew Ted, he had a postcard above his desk. A ceramics major who graduated during my first year at LC gave it to him. Seeing that postcard always reminded me how much he cared for us even when he did not show it. When I was leaving my last class with Ted at the end of the Spring 2019 semester, I gave him a postcard on which I drew my favorite of his pieces. I want to end this article with the same words I signed the card with:
“Forever grateful, Misha.”