Memorable Manitobans: Charles Walter “Charlie” Scott (1937-2005)
Ceramic artist, professor.
Born at Massachusetts on 12 October 1937 to Mildred and Walter Scott, he spent his youth at Sturbridge, an area whose history, environment, and the literary minds of Ralph Waldo Emerson and David Thoreau were lifelong influences for him. His fondness for mechanical drawing first led him to study Engineering at Northeastern University at Boston. Working for a local architect and discovering that he was more interested in structure rather than the applied mathematics, he began studying Architecture at Rhode Island School of Design (RISD).
It was during one summer break, when he was working at a youth camp in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, that he was first introduced to the ceramic arts while visiting a nearby potter’s studio. Although his first attempt to throw a pot was, as he put it, “a disaster”, he found the experience compelling. Because of his love of the outdoors and nature, and his vision of living quietly as an artist, away from the hustle and bustle of the city, he tried his hand again at clay while in his fourth year at RISD and got hooked on “playing with mud.” Reassured by an art professor that there were opportunities for ceramic artists, he changed his path. After graduating from RISD, he went on to receive his Masters in Fine Arts from Alfred University, New York, in 1964. As a graduate student, he focused on creating vessels in the ideal shape to fit perfectly into the curvature of a person’s hand and provide not only sustenance, but also pleasure, and comfort at the same time. In 1963, he married Valerie Klein of Long Island, New York, and they went on to have four children. They divorced in 1996.
After turning down job offers at a New York university and with the Peace Corps, he decided instead to accept the offer from Richard Williams at the University of Manitoba. Working with Williams, Director of the School of Art at the time, he helped with setting up the relocated ceramics department at the Fort Garry Campus and subsequently established his expertise in the realm of wood-fired vessels. As a professor at the School of Art, he was responsible for bringing in Robert Archambeau as an instructor, and under their direction the ceramics department grew. Scott taught at the School of Art in both the ceramics and design areas from 1964 to 1973. It was during this tenure that he went to Rankin Inlet as an artistic advisor, travelling in small bush planes and experiencing the wonders of the North. His knowledge of glazes and firing techniques added greatly to their artistic endeavours.
In 1973, he and the family moved to Domville, Ontario, near Prescott, where he set up his own studio. There he spent time building a large wood-fired kiln and creating the earth-toned vessels that were popular during the late 1960s and 1970s. Between 1973 and 1982, in addition to operating his own busy studio, he taught ceramics at various places in Ontario, including Sheridan College of Art and Design in Mississauga, St. Lawrence College at Brockville, and the University of Ottawa. In 1982, he returned to Winnipeg to be Director of the School of Art and, in 1987, resumed his teaching duties in both ceramics and design. He also developed a keen interest in model trains and railways and creating miniature landscapes.
In 2000, he met Ruth Thomas, who was a student at the School of Art, and they married in May 2005. Although he retired from the Art School in 2003, his ceramic work and miniatures were being exhibited throughout Canada and he was often called upon to curate exhibitions of contemporary ceramics, including the anniversary exhibition, Contemporary Manitoba Art, at the Winnipeg Art Gallery in 1987. He became an active member of the local model railway club, hosting events at his home and travelling to “train conferences” across North America. His home was transformed by his construction of the Boston Maine Railroad, White Mountain Division. Exact replicas of old stations and industrial buildings enhanced the layout; at one point, in order to enable the Portsmouth expansion, he created a “tunnel” through a wall so that the project could continue in the room next door. On road trips, he made a point of visiting old railway stations, as well as studying the passing trains. Other passions included cooking, especially the pursuit of the art of the barbecue.
He died at Winnipeg on 17 September 2005.
We thank Ruth Thomas for providing some of the information used here.
Obituary, Winnipeg Free Press, 20 September 2005.
This page was prepared by Lois Braun.
Page revised: 15 September 2022