Thomas Hoadley | Nerikomi Bowl
Thomas Hoadley

born 1949
Resides in Lanesborough, Massachusetts

Biography     Statement     Video Statement     Ask the Artist
Thomas Hoadley received his BA from Amherst College and his MS in Ceramics from Illinois State University in Normal. In 1978 his worked was represented in a show called "Young Americans: Clay/Glass" at the Tucson Museum of Art and the Museum of Contemporary American Crafts in New York City. Since then, he's taken part in a number of Solo and Group shows.

His work is in the permanent collection of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the Henry Ford Community College. Two 1994 books feature his art: The Complete Potter: Porcelain and Contemporary Porcelain.


My current ceramic work reflects an investigation into several areas of interest and an attempt to unify solutions to various visual problems. One interest is in the vessel as an abstract sculptural form and its many associations, both literal and metaphoric. Another is pattern and color and how a collection of abstract elements can create various feelings or impressions. A third is an interest in the integration of surface pattern and three dimensional form. The technique that I use, which results in a penetration of the pattern through the thickness of the wall so as to be visible on both the outside and the inside, is a partial solution to the problem; but from a strictly two dimensional standpoint I am also concerned with how the pattern relates to the form as seen in profile.

A certain degree of illusionism of depth is created by some color/pattern combinations and I enjoy the play of this implied visual depth vs. the real depth that is present in the interior space. My aim is not, however, to create strong illusions nor representational or abstracted pictures on the pots.

My initial attraction to the nerikomi technique came from its organic union of pattern and structure. Rather than the former being applied to the latter, as in most decorative pottery traditions, the two are one and the same. The natural world abounds with this sort of union and as a result, offers endless inspiration for pattern making. The other aspect that was particularly attractive to me was the translation of the physical properties of clay into a visual format. By this I mean that the very plasticity of the clay is made visible in the way that an imposed pattern is altered. Straight parallel lines are created by stacking up slices of variously colored clays but in the manipulation of the resulting soft block of clay, the lines become undulating or are perhaps made to taper down to a hair's breadth. Porcelain of course shows off this quality to its greatest extent but the principle is the same with any clay. I think of my patterns as being a collaboration between my imposed structure and the clay's wise alteration of that structure.

[Nerikomi, the traditional Japanese technique of creating patterns with colored clay is the inspiration for my work. Colored clays are sliced and stacked repeatedly to form patterns and color/textures in the clay itself, resulting in a single block or loaf made up of thousands of overlapping layers. Cross-sectional slices are cut from the block and joined together to form the vessels. The many layers are thus revealed as fine undulating lines embedded in a surrounding color. The pattern becomes the substance and structure of the form itself rather than just a surface embellishment.]

In addition to natural sources, I have found inspiration for patterns in a number of other areas. Fabric design has recently been of great interest to me as well as a variety of non-ceramic craft traditions. Graphic design of all sorts serves as visual stimulation and color ideas can come as easily from a magazine as as from a rock, shell, or flower.

Video Statement
. . . we still have that tie to the traditional functional objects . . . we're making it a metaphor . . .

VIDEO (2.4 MB) || AUDIO (RA:28)

Ask the Artist

Where do you get the ideas for your work?

The natural world, shells, rocks, feathers, etc. Textile design. World ceramics. My own previous work.

Do you work alone on your craft, or with others?


What's the most exciting part of creating your works?

Opening the kiln to see the true colors for the first time. Clay colors are quite different before firing.

What's the most difficult part of creating your works?

Creating the loaves of patterned clay.

What sort of technology do you use in your work? Has the technology of your craft changed dramatically over the past 100 years?

Very low tech. The most modern tool I use is waterproof sandpaper. I also use a sanding booth with an exhaust fan.

Do you have any advice for somebody just starting out?

Make the very best work that you can. Do not compormise your standards.

Can you share a "secret of the trade" with us--something nobody else knows or that you found out only after years of experience? Put another way--what do you wish somebody had told you when you were just starting out that might have saved you hours of wasted effort?

I don't feel that I have put in "hours of wasted effort." Here there are no shortcuts. It requires lots of hard work and patience.

What are we missing by experiencing your work through the Internet and not seeing/hearing/feeling/smelling/touching it in person?

About 90%.

Anne Hirondelle Dawn Kiilani Hoffmann