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Robert Johnson

American, b. 1965

Vase
1996 6.5 x 6 in. (16.51 x 15.24 cm)
Gift of the Nora Eccles Treadwell Foundation
1996.34

Johnson explored many techniques and processes including wood firing, salt firing, reduction cooling, and slip casting before settling on Chinese ceramic technology and aesthetics for his master’s thesis topic. He was fascinated with Chinese pottery, being particularly interested in the glazes produced during the Song dynasty, China’s golden age of ceramics. Guan pottery is an exotic celadon ware produced exclusively for the imperial household, and is relative rare in modern studio pottery. Johnson was interested in recreating the symbiosis between glaze, clay body, and form that is the essence of the Guan mystique. Typical is the thick, soft glaze and stained crackle pattern seen in Vase. This clay body is a moderate iron stoneware developed from actual Song dynasty sherd analyses. Vase was fired in a reduction atmosphere at a high temperature, making the surface a stony satin matte. The widely spaced crackle pattern was achieved through painstaking glaze testing and stained with calligraphy ink.

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.

Billie Sessions, PhD.


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