Golden grad Golden grad Golden grad

Ceramic artist Patti Warashina didn't originally plan for a life in the arts. We're glad she ended up there.

By Hannelore Sudermann | Photos by Ron Wurzer | June 2024 issue

In 1958, Patti Warashina came to the UW to become a dental hygienist. But the moment she picked up a stick of charcoal for an elective class in drawing, she was destined for a life in arts.

One day, the student from Spokane wandered into the ceramics studio, and “I thought, ‘Oh God, that looks like fun,’” she said during a recent talk at the Horizon House retirement community. She loved the tactile experience of throwing clay on a wheel and was hooked on creating, pushing the limits of clay and taking inspiration from her classmates. On weekends, Warashina said, she would break back into the studio through an unlocked basement window. She drew influence from the artists in the Bay Area Funk movement who were breaking the rules of ceramics, embracing absurdism and inspired by pop culture.

Warashina taught at the UW from 1970 to 1995, helping mold hundreds of students into fine artists and art enthusiasts. Warashina, ’62, ’64, was a woman in a male-dominated ceramic arts field. But she was and is widely respected for her mastery of the material, her intriguing takes on the human figure, and weird, witty and irreverent approaches to themes including feminism, social conditions and her own experiences. She became a leading figure in the Seattle art scene of the 1980s. And she gained national notice. A New York Times art critic recognized her for her “imagination and sheer technical virtuosity.”

Over her career, Warashina received three grants from the National Endowment of the Arts and the Lifetime Achievement/Woman of the Year Award by the Artist Trust in Seattle. Her work is in the collections of major museums and galleries around the world. In 2020, the Smithsonian honored her with the Visionary Award for more than 50 years of groundbreaking work in ceramics and for her interest in challenging gender barriers. The institution also recognized her for “building one of the strongest ceramic and sculpture departments on the West Coast.”

The UW Alumni Association is pleased to present Patti Warashina with the UWAA Golden Graduate Distinguished Alumnus Award, given to an alumnus who has demonstrated sustained, long-term and meaningful engagement with the UW.