Leah Trust Balsham Biography

Leah Trust Balsham




Leah Balsham was born in 1915 in Philadelphia, PA. She received her BFA at the University of Chicago (1940) as well as her MFA (1947), focusing on ceramics and printmaking. In the late 1930s and early 1940s she was employed by the WPA's Federal Arts Project in the Graphics division teaching woodcut, etching, and lithography, and in 1944 she took a position in the art department at Elmhurst College in Illinois. From 1947 to 1983 she was Professor of Ceramics at the Art Institute of Chicago.

Leah Balsham is primarily known for sculpture and individual container forms. She worked with slabs, and threw earthenware, stoneware, and porcelain on the wheel. Balsham’s firings ranged from low to high fire, in oxidation and reduction kiln environments.  Surface treatment included majolica (a white-based usually with brightly colored, low fire decoration), incised, wax resist, china painted, lusters, and decals. Balsham’s wood fired pots made in Japan had little or no glaze.

Balsham's sculpture was particularly inspired by Greek mythology and vase painting, as well as Japanese ceramics, Persian miniature painting, and folk and primitive art. Some sculptures evoked plant forms while others could be taken apart, giving them an intentional game-like quality. Balsham is also known for her print making, her work as an artist for the Federal Art Project (WPA), and as teacher of children at Hull House, a settlement house, in Chicago, Illinois.

She exhibited in the Annual Exhibition of Works by Chicago and Vicinity Artists, AIC in 1938 and 1960; Hyde Park Art Center, Chicago in 1955; the Artist Members Exhibit, Renaissance Society at the University of Chicago in 1962; After the Great Crash: New Deal Art in Illinois, Illinois State Museum in 1983.