After beginning his studies at the University of Saskatchewan in 1950, Robert Sperry transferred to the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where he completed his BFA in 1953. In 1954, he served as artist in residence at the Archie Bray Foundation. He became acquainted with Peter Voulkos and Rudy Autio and embraced their expressionist approach to clay. Sperry attended the University of Washington for his MFA, which he completed in 1955, and was hired by the university upon graduation. An ardent experimentalist, Sperry, along with Patti Warashina, Howard Kottler, and Fred Bauer, transformed the program at the University of Washington into an influential center for ceramics on the West Coast. He and his colleagues fostered connections with the San Francisco Bay Area through introducing the Funk movement to Seattle.