Johnson was born in California and studied graphic design, typography, and illustration at the University of Kansas. Taking a basic ceramics class to escape the rigors of the visual communications program changed his direction, and he received his BFA in ceramics in 1991. He moved to Logan, Utah, to pursue an MFA in ceramics at Utah State University but left the program to work as a graphic designer and cartographer for USU from 1994 to 2004. Twice he used vacation time to participate in firing an anagama kiln in Nebraska. These firings were pivotal in rekindling his desire to return to ceramics. In 2004 he left Utah to resume ceramic work full time in Omaha. Throughout his career, Johnson has been dedicated to arts education, having taught both ceramics and woodworking in various community arts programs in Logan, Omaha, and Portland, Oregon. After several moves, he is teaching and working in Omaha once again.