Mystery Pot 38 Maker James Lawton
Bringing movement to the traditional forms of pottery has always been on James Lawton’s mind. Early work has floating furniture, falling pots, and clothing flying by as if inhabited by the Invisible Man. In many pieces, there are several constructed forms coming together to make a flowing, cohesive statement, while always maintaining the utilitarian functionality of his vessels, teapots, vases, and flasks.
Several years ago, James Lawton developed an organizing theme that he called “vowel and consonant project”. Always fascinated by penmanship, his own, as well as old handwritten letters and documents, James began exploring how to bring the movement of handwriting to the static traditions of ceramic forms. The flowing script sometimes decorates the outside of the pot and at other times, it is the pot!
James Lawton has an impressive ceramic resume having honed his craft at many of the best places. In 1976, he received his BS in Constructive Design, Ceramics and Enamels at Florida State University in Tallahassee, an MFA in Ceramics at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge followed. Then James was off to Penland School of Craft for three years as a Resident Craftsman. From 1988-1998 he taught ceramics at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Since 1998, James Lawton has been Professor of Ceramics and Chair of the Artisanry Department at the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth. He also managed to fit in Artist-in-Residencies, twice at Watershed Center for the Ceramic Arts where he is on the Board of Trustees, and in 2005 at Anderson Ranch Arts Center. James Lawton has received National Endowment Visual Arts Fellowships twice!
James Lawton’s work is in many public and private collections including The Smithsonian in Washington D.C., the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, Icheon World Ceramic Center in Korea, and the Bailey Collection in Kingston, NY. In 2011, James Lawton became an elected member of the International Academy of Ceramics.
He shares homes and studios in South Dartmouth, MA, and Bluffton, SC, with his wife, the printmaker Yvonne Leonard.
“Like the tailor, the approach I take in making pots is to configure enclosures- to contain as well as to reveal within the work the eccentric shape of human life. It's my view that meaning is held on both sides of the clay fabric: an inner life of use and the outer one of appearance. It is not incongruent to me that clay and carnal bodies share certain elemental connections: pottery possessing the ability to describe the human condition while simultaneously being a part of it. Modernism defined use and meaning as separate and mutually unjustified, and it is this disparity which makes the potters' work at this juncture in history most compelling to me.” -James Lawton