Sam Clarkson


Sam Clarkson has been involved in the ceramic arts for over 28 years, and has exhibited nationally and internationally. He lived and worked in the mountains of Santa Cruz, CA from 2002-2020, and teaches ceramics at Cabrillo College in Aptos, CA. Sam has a BA from Pomona College, an MBA from Presidio School of Management, and an MFA from Penn State University, where he pioneered the use of liquid biofuels in ceramics. Since 2015 Sam’s work has focused on exploring the possibilities in wild Santa Cruz Mountains Clays and wood firing to cone 3 with a community of potters at his home studio in Bonny Doon.

That home and studio burned to the ground in the August 2020 CZU Lightning Complex fires, and Sam has rekindled his old relationship with High fired stoneware and porcelain.

Artist Statement

In the flow of history, ceramic art records human life for eons to all who speak the language of clay. In this work, you are a witness to a snapshot of one figment of one life in one amazing place. In the years I have worked with clay, I have frequently tried to leave what was familiar behind, and reinvent my work and my studio processes.

Without the luxury of choice, the fires of August 2020 which took away my home and studio forced another reinvention. This has brought me full circle to my earliest passions in Ceramics: high fire porcelain, Celadon and Shino Glazes. Our ceramics collection which I believed would endure long beyond my lifetime was reduced almost completely to shards. Thicker pieces with high percentages of fireclay and porcelain had a higher survival rate through this event, and the few forms that survived will inform my work for the next few years.

The fires threw down the gauntlet of loss, and I stepped back into the studio a fundamentally different man than the artist who lived in me before the fires. I’m working with familiar forms and processes, but delving deeply into the flow state of creation and the physical weight of forms.