I first picked up a lump of clay in the mid 1970’s, junior high school, threw it onto the head of a kick wheel and proceeded to make a squat bodied, long necked bottle.  Who knew?  Next came a hand-built Pisa-like vessel made of coils and dots.  I was an expert by then and understood completely how the brown clay I used had been mixed improperly resulting in a pink surface when fired.  Or was it that the kiln was not working in proper order?  Whichever, or both, that was my illustrious beginning of a lifelong journey with clay.

Coils and Dots, 1974

Jump forward over many trials and tribulations with clay and other creative forms to 1992.  San Francisco was where I called home and I needed a little job to tide me over until my regular work (modern dance) kicked back into full swing.  Plates and bowls piled up.  So did wholesale orders.  The rest is history.  I never really got back to dancing and my second career was well on its way.
Maturing as a visual artist means digesting influences and metabolizing them into something personal and idiosyncratic enough to call my own.  I looked to movement from contemporary choreographers and linear purity from painters and sculptors.  Of note were Merce Cunningham, Erick Hawkins, Sol LeWitt, Agnes Martin, Joan Mitchell and Cy Twombly.  Each of these masters of their craft inspired me to look deeper into color, line and gesture.  Gradually I formed a cohesive body of work that reached broadly enough into the craft marketplace to be attractive to stores, craft galleries and art consultants.  It was, and remains a balancing act, but it also paid the bills.

Storm (Vertical) 2016

Then came 2008.  The gigantic market shift was punishing to many craftspeople, me included.  I maintained my studio but have needed to branch out with alternative skills in order to continue.  Instead of packing up to travel to a few craft shows a year where I once found sustenance and community, I now stay closer to home, teaching yoga, baking bread and tricking out a craft gallery/gift store each week.  The merchandizing gig is the real money-maker but you won’t find it on my resume.  I prefer to think of my self as ceramic artist, yoga teacher and bread man.  These three kindred spirited skills give me joy and something to share.  Not bad for a middle aged hack.

Sprouted Spelt Levain 2016

I continue to work in the studio producing my series of Dot Compositions for commercial and residential spaces and investigating what else can be found in a bag of clay. 

Neutra Inspired V 2016

Lately, it has been thin sheets of porcelain, screen printed with reductions from 19th century photographs and hefty ceramic paintings that nod back to the abstract expressionists who have lit my creative fires for 50+ years.

Willa 2016

James Aarons lives and works in Mokelumne Hill, CA. See more of James’ here:


This is another installment in an ongoing monthly feature dedicated to spotlighting an ACGA member and learning more about their work, studio practice, and philosophy. Want to be featured in an upcoming spotlight? Email us to have your work featured in an upcoming post!