Elizabeth Roman, one of Vermont’s foremost potters whose work was highly regarded for the grace and delicacy of its shapes and the striking effects she achieved with unglazed firings, died peacefully February 14 at her home in Williamstown, Vt. The cause of death was complications from the treatment of lung cancer. She was 74 years old.
Ms. Roman was born in 1941 in Cambridge, Mass., and grew up in Washington D.C. and Switzerland. She was the daughter of Howard Roman and Marion Donahue and was raised by her father and stepmother, Jane (Atherton) Roman.
She lived in Switzerland until age 12, and by the time she returned to the U.S. she was an avid skier who spoke Swiss-German like a native. After high school, she enrolled in Wheaton College in Massachusetts, but when she wasn’t able to pursue her passion for the arts, she defied her parents’ wishes and left college to live in Cambridge.
One evening she accompanied a friend to a ceramics class at the city’s Adult Education Center and fell in love with the craft. She said she “became captivated by both the process and its potential.” She was primarily self-taught.
In the early 70s, Ms. Roman moved with her young family to central Vermont where she found inspiration in the beauty of the Green Mountains and support in the close-knit arts community For 20 years, Ms. Roman worked as a production potter turning out traditional dinnerware—plates, mugs, cups, bowls, and jars—in stoneware and porcelain fired in electric and gas kilns. After receiving her B.A. in art from Vermont College in 1989, she concentrated on manipulating the vessel form and experimenting with other types of firings.
Ms. Roman was one of 250 potters selected for inclusion in The Best of Pottery published by the Rockport Press in 1996 and 1998, and her pots have been sold in galleries across the country.
In 2003, Ms. Roman was invited to participate in a national show at the Philadelphia Museum of the Arts. In 1993, she won the Bronze Award from the Art of California magazine. In 2000, her work was featured in the “Breathed by Fire” show at the Frog Hollow State Craft Center in Middlebury. A photograph of one of her burnished sawdust-fired pots was used for the show’s poster.
Ms. Roman was also included in the “Best Vermont Potters “ exhibition in 2007 at Studio Place Arts in Barre where she taught pottery classes in her studio.
In the late 90s, she was selected three times for inclusion in the Stratton Mountain Arts Festival, and twice for the “Envisioned in a Pastoral Setting” show at Shelburne Farms. Ms. Roman’s work was carried by the Frog Hollow State Craft Centers in Middlebury and Burlington, in Montpelier at the Vermont Clay Studio and the Artisans’ Hand of which she was a founding member and a former manager.
In addition to being a passionate artist, Ms. Roman was a fierce and devoted mother to her three children, who saw her as a beacon of independence and strength. She brought these same qualities to her work at Battered Women Services and Shelter (now called The Circle) in Barre, where she was first a volunteer and then a legal advocate for victims of domestic abuse.
Elizabeth Roman was at heart a powerful, creative, loving, adventurous, rebellious, joyful, stubborn, loyal feminist, artist, mother, wife, gardener, friend, sister and daughter. She is survived by her husband, Wallace Roberts of Williamstown, her children, Ornan McLean and Ulysses McLean of Vergennes, and Sienna McLean-LoGreco of Santa Monica, Calif.; her sister, Margaret Roman, of Portland, Me.; her former husband, Taylor McLean of Jersey City, N.J., and two grandchildren.
A memorial service will be held in the spring.
Contributions in lieu of flowers can be made to Central Vermont Home Health and Hospice of Berlin, Vt., and Studio Place Arts, Barre.