History & Founding
Founded by the late Dennis and Julie Parks in 1966,
the Tuscarora Pottery School was born out of a vision of self-sustaining
country living centered around a ceramic and pottery practice.
Dennis left a tenure track professorship at Pitzer College in California to found this rural pottery school. His first students were college kids who helped build the studios and equipment from materials at hand; they prospected for local clays, made glazes from minerals found in the old tailing piles, and built kick wheels from old car parts. The program grew to offer year-round classes, drawing people from all over the world.
Dennis started ceramics and sculpture departments at Knox College (IL) and Pitzer College (CA). He conducted workshops and lectures throughout the U.S. and abroad, including Australia, Belgium, Great Britain, Hungary, Poland, Russia, and the Czech Republic. Technical and critical articles by and about him have appeared in numerous ceramics magazines. His book, A Potter's Guide to Raw Glazing and Oil Firing, was published by Scribners (NYC) and Pitman (London) in 1980, and a memoir of settling in Tuscarora and establishing the pottery school, Living in the Country Growing Weird , was published by the University of Nevada Press in 2001. He served as curriculum chair for the National Council on Education in the Ceramic Arts (NCECA). In 1983 he was elected to membership in the International Academy of Ceramics, and in 1990 he was honored with the Governor's Arts Award in the state of Nevada. He passed away in April, 2021.
Dennis wrote and traveled extensively and many of his colleagues and peers came to visit Tuscarora and the school in its unique environment. Julie welcomed visitors and students with her southern charm and amazing cooking.
Julie and Denis Parks in Tuscarora
Students reside in the historic Zweifel Rooming House, which was purchased by the Parks family in 1972. The two studios include a geodesic dome, used for wheel throwing, and a building constructed from bricks pressed from local dirt. The school yard has grown a collection of sculpture and memorabilia.
Over the years classes have evolved into retreat-style workshops, running between three days to two weeks. Board members and friends of the school serve as volunteers, staff, and instructors, carrying on the tradition of a deeply engaging, rural ceramics education and building a robust community of makers and thinkers.