Remembering: Stephen De Staebler

Remembering: Stephen De Staebler


Stephen De Staebler with his clay sculptures at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, from the April/May 1981 issue of American Craft.

"You do what you can and then it is really up to others to see if there's anything in the work for them, too. You can only deal with your own point of view, but something that touches you deeply is going to touch others too." So said clay sculptor Stephen De Staebler in a 1981 Ceramics Monthly interview. De Staebler, who was known for his grand human forms, died May 13 at age 78.

A Missouri native, De Staebler later lived in Berkeley, California. He taught at the San Francisco Art Institute and San Francisco State University. He was also a student of the famed ceramist Peter Voulkos. He was not only a clay sculptor, but also dabbled in bronze casting. He created many large-scale works of figures trying to emerge from clay columns.

De Staebler gave a speech entitled "The Inside of the Outside" at the American Craft Council conference in June of 1986. He said, "When we make our art, or we try to make our art, we align ourselves with processes which are actually much greater than we have any comprehension of when we begin. We have so much in us that we don't even know is there. The fantastic thing about trying to make art is that occasionally it appears-not because we demanded it and it arrived, but because we were working and something more came to life than we actually had in mind to achieve in the first place."

In 1994 he became a member of the ACC College of Fellows. He said of the honor: "The arts let us be children with adult minds. The crafts let us be adults with children's hands. Touching is integral to the making and experience of objects. I am touched by the recognition you have given my work."