The death of Katherine Stillman of Wellfleet on July 20, 2020 at Cape Cod Hospital was reported to the Independent this week. She was 76.
She was born on Oct. 5, 1943 in New York City to the late Rufus and Leslie Stillman, and spent her early years in Litchfield, Conn. She graduated from Pomona College in California with a B.A. in sociology and anthropology and then went on to Lesley College in Cambridge to get her M.Ed. in special education. She continued studies in creative arts through the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.
Katherine moved to Wellfleet in 1972 as an accomplished potter, painter, and woodworker. There, she established her studio, originally called Salt Marsh Pottery and later well known as Salty Duck Pottery.
In 1988, the Wellfleet Public Library produced a video about her, titled “Katherine Stillman, The Potter.” In the film, she discusses the factors that influenced her art, including her experience learning pottery-making techniques and decoration with artisans from the Acoma tribe in New Mexico.
Another major influence on her was the late Gerry Williams of Dunbarton, N.H., a world-renowned master potter and mentor. Williams was noted for his use of the elusive copper red glaze, which appears in many of Katherine’s pieces. Williams was also a pacifist and activist, inspired by his friendship with Mahatma Gandhi.
Katherine had a similarly strong and enduring commitment to pacifism.
For decades, weekly Quaker meetings took place at her home on East Commercial Street. She was a kind, quiet, and loyal friend. She had a small tin in her studio where customers could leave money for their purchases. In the tin was a handwritten note: “If you are in need of money please take some.”
In addition to her work as an artist, Katherine taught children with special needs, enjoyed baking pastries for a local restaurant, and for many years served as an outreach coordinator for the Truro Council on Aging. She was a member of Common Voices, a Cape Cod women’s chorus, and served as chair of the Wellfleet Library Development Committee. She loved reading and travel.
She is survived by a sister, Timothy “Timmie” (Stillman) Roman, and husband Michael; a brother, Edgar “Gar” Stillman, and wife Dara; niece Una D’Elia; nephew Luke Roman; and cousins Pamela Marsters Hanson and Katherine “Kit” Young.
Plans for a memorial have not yet been announced.