Rick Dillingham earned a B.F.A. degree at the University of New Mexico in 1974 and an M.F.A. degree at Claremont Graduate School, California, in 1976. As a volunteer, he spent time restoring Native American clay vessels for the Department of Anthropology at the University of New Mexico. This tedious piecing together of clay shards inspired his hand-built ceramic vessels, which he formed and then broke, reassembling the pieces after painting and glazing them.
A guest curator of many exhibitions and a lecturer on Native American pottery, Diillingham also showed his own work throughout the country. Among his many other interests, he established Dillingham Press, which published books and articles.
Kenneth R. Trapp and Howard Risatti Skilled Work: American Craft in the Renwick Gallery (Washington, D.C.: National Museum of American Art with the Smithsonian Institution Press, 1998)