Devoting his life to ceramics

Carter Pasma signed up for a pottery class his junior year in high school, thinking he would try something easy.
Abbey Goers | August 26, 2019
Carter Pasma's brown glazed mug.

Carter Pasma’s first assignment in his high school pottery class was to throw a seven-inch cylinder. He was surprised by how much he enjoyed it. His future became clear as he watched the cylinder take shape from a simple lump of clay.

“I decided then I wanted to devote my life to ceramics,” Pasma said.

Pasma skipped other classes to be in the studio. His pottery teacher, Lou Ferreri, recognized his talent and passion and introduced Pasma to UW-Stout’s Studio Art’s ceramics concentration.

Pasma was drawn to the Studio Art program’s hands-on approach, as he learned better by doing. Enrolling at UW-Stout, another tile was laid on his path to a life in ceramics.


Carter Pasma's cream and sage glazed platter.

Striving for Perfection at UW-Stout

Pasma’s ceramics convey both form and function. He stresses these aspects in every piece he creates. He was influenced by the works of two mentors at UW-Stout, professors Kate Maury and Geof Wheeler.

While he was in high school, Pasma was encouraged by Professor Maury to enter the ceramics program. She had a significant influence on his work during his undergraduate studies.

“She was always on me to be in the studio and pushing me to make more artwork,” Pasma said. “She kind of lit the fire for me, and I ran with it from there.”

Professor Maury noted Pasma’s diligence in the studio as he developed his portfolio, exploring a variety of functional forms, including pouring vessels. A determined maker, Pasma discussed every detail of his pieces with Professors Maury and Wheeler.

“I remember after a few semesters into his program, Carter was unrelenting,” Professor Maury said. “He would still address a form from an earlier semester to perfect it.”

Two kilns sharing an 18-foot chimney built by Carter Pasma at Montana State University.

An Artist’s Experience in Big Sky Country

Pasma graduated with his B.F.A. in Studio Arts from UW-Stout in May 2019. He began his search for a post-baccalaureate program before receiving his degree and was accepted everywhere he applied. But it had always been his goal to study at Montana State University in Bozeman. At MSU, he was able to study under one of his favorite artists, Josh DeWeese.

Over the past summer, Pasma helped build two new kilns at MSU. The kilns are a cross draft wood kiln, and a downdraft, gas-fired salt/soda kiln. Pasma built the 18-foot chimney the kilns share.

“I’ve never been part of a kiln build before. This has been a huge learning experience for me,” Pasma said.


Carter Pasma's unfired pitcher and basket.

In the studio at MSU, Pasma experimented with baskets and pitchers. These forms offer him a problem-solving opportunity. Compared to the advanced ceramics studio space at UW-Stout where Pasma sometimes felt isolated, MSU’s studio, with its many windows, draws in natural light.

“I don’t feel like I’m cooped up in a room all day,” he said. “But no matter the space, you have to figure out how to work and get in a groove.”

Bozeman has been Pasma’s playground. He’s gone mountain biking and fly fishing and feels even though he’s only been at MSU for three months, he belongs there.

Continuing His Devotion

As a professional artist, Pasma knows he’ll need to take chances others may be too scared to take. But he must be willing to put himself out there, possibly risk financial instability, and learn how to accept rejection by people, shows, or grants. He understands he must accept failure as part of his career.

“Ceramics is a very broad road to devote one’s life to, but it is what you make of it,” Pasma said. “It’s a lot of work, but if you’re doing what you love, it isn’t really work.”

Already thinking ahead to when he completes his post-baccalaureate, Pasma would like to enter an apprenticeship before pursuing his master’s degree. Perhaps, one day, he’ll teach.

“But who knows, I have to be open to anything and everything that comes my way,” he said.

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