|Birth Date: 1945
|Tom Coleman was born in Amarillo, Texas, in 1945. He is known for ceramic pieces that are functional while also being expressive. Tom has developed his craft, working with both porcelain and stoneware, over five decades. He often works alongside his wife and fellow artist, Elaine Coleman, throwing her pieces before she carves intricate designs onto the surfaces. He has devoted his life to developing his craft and to teaching others through college classes, conferences, publications, and workshops.
Tom is well known for his glazes and has developed his own recipes over the course of his career. Some glazes that he has developed include “test site” glazes created in response to the destruction of the Nevada desert during atomic bomb testing of the mid-20th century, “crystal matte” glazes which produce a matte surface with bits of shimmer, and his Vegas Red glaze.
From 1964 to 1968, Coleman attended the Museum Art School (later renamed the Pacific Northwest College of Art) where he received a scholarship and took classes at Reed College, both in Portland, Oregon. He graduated in 1968, with a Bachelor’s of Fine Arts degree. While attending college, he met his future wife, Elaine. The couple married in 1967, and in 1972 they moved to Canby, Oregon, where they bought a farmhouse and built a studio. Tom worked as a studio potter from this location for nearly two decades.
Between 1968 and 1969, Tom gained experience through an apprenticeship with studio potter Bill Crietz in Portland, Oregon. In 1969, Tom was hired as the Head of the Ceramics Department at the Pacific Northwest College of Art, where he taught until 1973. Between 1973 and 1974, Tom then worked as a ceramics instructor at Portland State University.
In 1983, Tom, along with fellow Oregonian artists, Nils Lou and Frank Boyden, built the East Creek Anagama (an ancient type of kiln first developed in Japan in the 5th century) in Willamina, Oregon. The group received funds to help build the kiln in 1984, from the Art Advocate’s Association via a grant and from the Metropolitan Arts Commission via a purchase award. This group effort was in pursuit of bringing ceramic education through wood firing to the west coast. After completing the anagama kiln, Tom and Frank Boyden began a three year artistic collaboration, with Tom throwing pieces and Frank incising them with intricate designs.
In 1987, after three years of collaboration with Frank in Oregon, Tom and his family moved to Las Vegas, Nevada. Coleman was hired as a ceramics instructor at the University of Nevada Las Vegas where he worked from 1987 to 1992. Tom and Elaine opened Coleman Clay Studio & Gallery in Las Vegas in 1994, where they both worked as studio potters, hosted throwing classes, offered private studio space to fellow artists, and opened a gallery. In February 1995, the Colemans moved to Henderson, Nevada. They continued to use their Las Vegas studio until 2000 and in 2001, they opened Coleman Clay Studio and Gallery, Inc., in Henderson, Nevada.
In 2002, Tom was invited to sit as a guest artist at the San Angelo Museum of Fine Arts in San Angelo, Texas. In 2004, Coleman acted as a juror for the selection of featured ceramic cups for the publication “500 Cups: Ceramic Explorations of Utility and Grace,” and in 2005, he also worked as a juror for the annual event “Strictly Functional Pottery National,” which is recognized as one of the top nationally juried ceramics competitions in the US.
Tom Coleman has authored a number of books including, “Glazes I Use,” (1998), “With A Little Help From My Friends,” (2000), and “More Glazes I Use: Glazes, Clays, and Ideas,” (2009). He has been featured in numerous publications and magazines throughout his career, including a feature with Elaine in the January issue of, “Ceramics Monthly,” magazine (2003). His work with Frank Boyden was featured in the book, “On the River through the Valley of Fire: The Collaborative Ceramics of Frank Boyden and Tom Coleman,” (2008). Other publications featuring Coleman include: “500 Cups: Ceramic Explorations of Utility & Grace,” (2004), “Making Marks, Discovering the Ceramic Surface” by Robin Hopper (2004), and “Contemporary Porcelain,” by Peter Lane (1995).
Today, Tom continues to work as a studio pottery and works with his wife at their studio in Henderson, Nevada. He continues to teach by leading workshops and lectures in-person across the US and by offering online workshops. In 2020, he was the Keynote Speaker at the Clay Con West Conference.
Tom’s work can be found in permanent collections across the country including the Canton Museum of Art, the Portland Art Museum, the Racine Art Museum, the Wooster College Art Museum, and the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s Renwick Gallery. His work is also held internationally in the Sapporo Sister City Collection in Sapporo, Japan, at the Grimmerhus Museum in Fyn, Denmark, as well as in collections in Canada, Australia, and the Netherlands.