Karl Martz (1912 – 1997) was an American studio potter, ceramic artist, and teacher whose work achieved national and international recognition. Karl Martz was born in Columbus, Ohio, USA to Velorus Martz, a high school principal and later professor of Education at Indiana University, and Amy Lee Kidwell Martz, in 1912.
Martz's first exposure to a professional ceramic art studio was in 1931 when he attended a summer course at Ohio State University. For the summer of 1932, Griffith Pottery in Nashville, Brown County, Indiana (a tourist destination and artist's colony) hired Martz to improve their glaze formulas. In 1933, Martz graduated from Indiana University, Bloomington, with a bachelor's degree in chemistry. He worked again at Griffith Pottery in the summer of 1933. In 1933-34, Martz returned to Ohio State University to do graduate work in ceramic art with Arthur E. Baggs, Carlton Atherton, and Edgar Littlefield. He worked as an apprentice at Brown County Pottery for a year.
In 1935, he began a series of rustic studios in the woods near Nashville, Indiana. In 1935, he married Margaret Rebekah “Becky” Brown. Initially, they lived in a small cabin on a hill just South of Nashville, Indiana, where Martz built his first kiln: "I built a kiln out in the woods. Didn't know a thing about building kilns, of course. I got a big 20-gallon stoneware crock, knocked the bottom out to get a draft, and put a pan underneath to drip oil into so the flame would come up through. Can you believe this? It smoked terribly -- great clouds -- and the neighbors thought we were running a moonshine still. But I could get copper reds on the bottom and chrome reds on top, all in the same firing. Pretty soon I talked my dad into financing a real kiln."
Soon they rented a cabin in the woods, North of Nashville, Indiana. They had two sons, Eric in 1940, and Brian in 1942. Becky learned ceramics from her husband, initially making small items to sell to tourists. Later, Becky developed her own style, making charming and whimsical animal sculptures, and earning a regional reputation.
Martz designed a home and studio on the outskirts of Nashville, Indiana, the ‘’Martz Studio’’, and built it largely with his own hands, starting in 1949. In 1954, the family took up academic-year residence in Bloomington, Indiana, to enable their two boys to attend the University School, which was academically much superior to the school in Nashville IN. Eric became a professor of biological science, and Brian, a musician and professor of music. Martz and his wife continued to spend weekends and summers at the Nashville Martz Studio, making and selling pottery there, until 1961, when they sold it and moved to a modest home at 105 N. Overhill Dr. in Bloomington, Indiana, where their lives had become centered. They converted the attached garage into a ceramic’s studio, where Martz and his wife continued to make pottery and ceramic sculpture until precluded by failing health.
Martz had an unassuming and modest demeanor, preferring to be called a potter. He battled lifelong depression. In the late 1930s and early 1940s, he enjoyed acting in plays (some written or directed by Joseph Hayes) at the Brown County Theater. He played the piano, mostly boogie woogie, sometimes entertaining his children and nieces with musically accompanied stories.
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