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The museum has collected and shown ceramic works since the 1930s. The Mills College Ceramics Guild, which became an important experimental base for artists like Peter Voulkos and Robert Arneson, was founded in 1940. Since then, notable instructors have included F. Carlton Ball, Antonio Prieto, and Ron Nagle. Prieto amassed a personal collection including hundreds of ceramic works—primarily from Northern California, but also from elsewhere in the United States, England, and Japan—which was donated to the museum in 1970.

The museum also owns a fine collection of Japanese ceramics, including some dating from the Momoyama era (1568–1615). The collection’s primary emphasis however, is on the 20th century, with works by modern Japanese masters such as Shōji Hamada and Kanjiro Kawai (co-founders of the Japan Folk Art Association).

The museum’s ceramics collection features a unique group of important Papagayo Polychrome pieces from Omotepe Island, Nicaragua, that date between AD 950 and 1000. In addition, the museum owns an outstanding collection of approximately 125 ancient Southwestern ceramics from the Anasazi, Hohokam, and Mogollon cultures, which date from circa AD 500–1000.

Select highlights from our ceramics holdings are available while we continue to expand our digital collection.

Browse Ceramics