Born in Hebron, Nebraska in 1951, Terry Rothrock grew up in the central Kansas town of McPherson. With little exposure to the arts growing up, Terry only discovered pottery in his last year of college when he was forced to take an art course to graduate. Nevertheless, he immediately fell in love and knew he had found his vocation. Under the guidance of master potter Vincent Suez, his enthusiasm for clay was given focus and instruction.
Terry graduated from La Verne College in 1973 and moved on to several different pottery-related jobs. The repetitive nature of production pottery helped him gain confidence and prepare to eventually run his own pottery studio. While working evenings and weekends in his garage on his own pottery, Terry also gradually developed his own idiom. The main outlets for his pottery were the designer and decorator markets in Los Angeles, Phoenix, and Palm Desert. Finally, in 1989, he moved to Yucca Valley and began working full-time for himself.
This migration to the desert was greatly beneficial to Terry’s work; the following decade was a period of growth and creativity–one free from distractions and from the influences of other potters. His pieces during this time began to be influenced by the desert environment and also increased in size. Some were as large as 40” tall and 30” wide. These include, among others, pieces resembling weathered rock that are irregular shaped with satin matte glazes. His growth as an artist during this period also included much experimentation with and eventually mastery and fusing of multiple pottery forms from several diverse traditions.
In 2001, Terry married Chinlee Chang and moved to the mountain community of Idyllwild, beginning his latest and what is becoming his most exciting period as a potter. After three decades of dedication, Terry is still inspired and intrigued by the endless possibilities for exploration that pottery offers. He understands that aesthetically pleasing and sensually appealing pottery is produced only through a potter’s intimacy with all aspects of the creation: clay, glaze materials, equipment, fire, and his own identity. Like participating in sports, making pots also demands a combination of dexterity, strength, quickness and hand-eye coordination. In light of all this though, Terry remains most passionate about the simplicity of pottery: the creation and working on the pottery wheel. Greatly influenced by a renewed interest in Zen Buddhist practice Terry appreciates the need to work with the clay rather than trying to dominate it and conquer the process.
Besides continuing to experiment with new techniques and pieces and improving old ones, Terry is also excited about his recent and progressing collaboration in the studio with his wife Chinlee. A former artist in, among other fields, fashion design, Chinlee brings a different dimension and aesthetic to the field of pottery and ceramics design. As a tandem, their artistic future has become an exciting and promising prospect. Terry hopes to continue to create beautiful pottery that reflects both the wisdom he has gained in over three decades of experience as well as the harmony of two artists skilled in a different element of the arts. In addition to his collaboration with Chinlee, Terry began teaching at Idyllwild Arts Academy in 2006. He has greatly enjoyed the campus environment and the challenge of teaching high school students how to make things out of clay. In 2008 he also began teaching and assisting adults in the summer program at Idyllwild Arts. In 2012 he was given fulltime status in the Visual Art Department and currently teaches 5 classes in ceramics and supervises students involved in independent study in ceramics. The first invitational ceramic show during the academic year was also currated by Terry in 2013. In 2014 Chinlee and Terry collaborated on a class called, “Handbuilding and Majolica.” It was a natural outgrowth of their work at home and proved to be challenging and rewarding. It was a class for all levels of skill in ceramics with the predominant emphasis being on majolica decoration, which is the specialty of Chinlee. They plan to continue offering this class on a regular basis Enveloped in this refreshing and optimistic atmosphere, Terry believes his most promising and productive days of pottery are ahead of him.