Laura and I first met Tom Clarkson in Atlanta about 15 years ago. He was exhibiting his pottery at the annual American Craft Council Craft Fair there. Like the proverbial moth to a flame, both Laura and I were drawn to Tom’s artwork. We were taken by the grace, fluidity, beauty and consistency. We were then doubly pleased to discovery that all of Tom’s pots were entirely functional (white stoneware). We bought a wonderful casserole that has graced our kitchen ever since.
While still living in Atlanta, we ran into Tom at other ACC Craft Fairs and said our annual hellos. Over the years, a nice little relationship developed. So, shortly after we moved from Atlanta to Charlottesville in 2001, we thought how funny it would be to seek Tom out. Through his regular participation in the prestigious ACC Fairs, we were already keenly aware of Tom’s stature in the national pottery scene, but little did we know that he is a living breathing institution here in the Charlottesville art scene. Virtually every potter in this area has been influenced by Tom in one manner or another - usually through his roll as the head of the ceramics department at the Piedmont Virginia Community College, but often as a supportive friend and colleague. Over and over, we have heard people describe Tom as "one of the best, most generous teachers around." Yup. That sums it all up in our mind.
As many of Migration’s clients and patrons know, Laura and I are focused on bringing the art work of artists living outside of Virginia to our gallery. We feel strongly that exposure to all the stimulating art beyond our little neck of the woods is important for the development of the art scene in central Virginia. With that in mind… while pulling together the final list of ceramic artists we wanted to exhibit in our summer show, "Conscious Clay," we curiously found ourselves focused on Tom’s pottery. The quality of his work is undeniable. His artistic grace and exquisite craftsmanship continually stood out among the many artists’ work we reviewed. Although we strive to exhibit the great art made by artists outside of Virginia, sometimes, the best art is found right here in Charlottesville.
What stands out most in Tom’s pottery is how he honors the many characteristics of the clay. For example, Tom often creates the look of wet clay on the surface of his finished pieces. To achieve this technique, he begins by throwing the clay, and then he manipulates its surface to include elements of the different textures it has had throughout the entire process. He finishes with wood-ash glazes that accentuate those details. The result is a functional piece of fine art. Tom modestly states that this technique shows "a harmony between form, surface and function."
Tom Clarkson's work expresses all that is artistic in functional pottery. Marrying form and function in vessels whose beauty needs no function is his strength.