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Sanders was born into the industrious pottery scene of New Waterford, Ohio, in 1909. He received a bachelor’s degree in education from Ohio State University in 1932, and went on to earn an MFA in 1933. While he was a graduate student, Sanders became the assistant of Arthur Eugene Baggs, who was a significant contributor to the development of American studio pottery in the early twentieth century. Sanders continued to teach ceramics at Ohio State University, as well as working with Edgar Littlefield and Carlton Atherton to broaden the scope of his ceramic knowledge. After serving in the military during World War Two, he returned to the US and became an instructor at, and in 1946 director of, the School for American Craftsmen at Alfred University, New York. In 1948 Sanders used the GI Bill to become the first American to receive a PhD in ceramics, and spent the remainder of his career educating aspiring young potters and developing the crystalline glazes in which he specialized.
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