Richard Ritter was born in Detroit in 1940, but grew up in rural Michigan near the small town of Novi. While in his senior year at Northville High School, Ritter had the good fortune to meet a very special art teacher named John Van Haren, who encouraged him to pursue a career in art. After attending the Society of Arts and Crafts (presently the College for Creative Studies) in Detroit from 1959 to 1962, Richard Ritter left school to take a job with an advertising firm as an advertising illustrator for five years (1962 through 1968), Richard Ritter was hired to teach advertising at the Society of Arts and Crafts. Taking advantage of the school’s policy that allowed instructors to enroll in classes, He pursued an interest in metalworking. His first exposure to hot glass took place in 1968 when Gil Johnson built a small glass blowing facility at CCS. Ritter was interested in incorporating glass into the pewter castings he was working on at the time, and signed up for the glass blowing class. After working at the furnace only 11 times during the semester, Rutter was convinced that glassblowing was the media that he had been searching for to begin his life’s work.
Richard Ritter graduated from CCS and was then invited to build a glass blowing and teaching facility at the Bloomfield Art Association (BAA) in Birmingham, Michigan. In 1971, Richard enrolled in a summer session taught by Mark Peiser at Penland School of Crafts in the mountains of North Carolina. There he was able to swap a class with Richard Marquis for helping them build some equipment for the glass studio.
In 1977, Richard Ritter married Jan Williams, and they moved to a farm in Cass City, Michigan where he built a studio. In 1979 Ritter received the honor of being invited by Mrs. Walter Mondale to create a set of dessert plates to become a part of the Permanent Collection of the Vice President’s Resident in Washington, D.C. In 1980, they returned to North Carolina where they bought a small farm just outside of the town of Bakersville, located in the mountains of Mitchell County. There, they built a new studio, and restored an old farmhouse. In 1984 Ritter received a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship Grant.
Through the years Richard Ritter has received many honors including a Twenty-year Retrospective at the University of Michigan at Dearborn, be declared “The Year of the American Craft: A Celebration of the Creative Works of the Hand” as mandated by a Presidential Proclamation and Joint Resolution of Congress. He was one of 70 of America’s leading crafts artists invited to contribute an example of their work to the first permanent White House Crafts Collection. In 1999, Ritter was honored with a thirty-year retrospective of his glass at Christian Brothers University in Memphis, Tennessee. He received an Honorary Doctor of Fine Arts from the Center for Creative Studies in Detroit Michigan in 2000. He also received the North Carolina Artist Fellowship Grant 2000-2001, and was honored with a thirty-year retrospective exhibition at the University of Michigan, Dearborn: “Suspended Expressions, Visions in Glass.” In 2009, Ritter celebrated 40 years of working in glass with a retrospective exhibition at the Toe River Arts Council in Spruce Pine, North Carolina. This exhibition featured over 75 works in glass from 1969 to 2009. This show continues to travel, and has been exhibited at locations such as Western Carolina University, the Green Hill Center for NC Art, and the Ogden Museum of Southern Art.
In 2011, Richard Ritter was declared a North Carolina Living Treasure. He received a Medallion in a ceremony at the University of North Carolina Wilmington and was honored with the exhibition Murrinis Within a Crystal Matrix: The Poetic Glassworks of Richard Ritter. This exhibition of his work was shown at the Cameron Art Museum.