Quick Bio:

(extended version at bottom of page)


Sam Clarkson has been involved in the ceramic arts for over 25 years, and has exhibited nationally and
internationally. He lives and works in the mountains of Santa Cruz, CA, and teaches ceramics at Cabrillo College in Aptos, CA. Sam has a BA from Pomona College, an MBA from Presidio School of Management, and an MFA from Penn State University, where he pioneered the use of liquid biofuels in ceramics.  

Artist's Statement:

Since 2015 I've left almost everything familiar from the previous 23 years in ceramics in order to use the earth near my home to create. This work is woodfired native Santa Cruz Mountain clay: I dig it by hand, drive it home, and process it in my studio. There are minimal additives except for my labor. The clay is not easy to work with.  Like the mountains where I live and the ocean where I play, it demands respect and refuses many techniques which are staples in the potter’s art. Many forms are impossible to make.  I cannot insist on shapes or forms from the clay.  We collaborate and the clay emphatically weighs in on certain ideas. This work embodies a subtle beauty that will unveil itself with time and use. In the flow of history, ceramic art records human life for eons to all who speak the language of clay. You are witness to a snapshot of one life in one amazing place.


Red Clay Rambler Podcast

The Rosenfield Collection


Clarkson Pottery FB


Vegetable oil firing article by John Britt

An Urban Wood Kiln 1999 Ceramics Monthly article (page 35)



Deeper History:

Sam Clarkson was raised in a small college town known as Sewanee, Tennessee. He was most passionate about art and sports from an early age. Water skiing, triathlons, soccer, snow skiing, and windsurfing. He dabbled in Art at St. Andrew’s Sewanee School in middle and high school. Sam immersed himself in clay as a senior Art Major at Pomona College in Claremont CA (class of 93), after four years focused on Painting, Drawing, Printmaking and Sculpture, but his higher self knew he was destined for clay:

“Once in a breakthrough drawing class with an amazing teacher, Phyllis McGibbon, the day I first saw 3-D space inside a flat piece of paper, a voice said, ‘maybe I should be a potter’”

Sam’s first ceramics class with Brook LeVan moved at a brisk pace and shared a studio with lifelong friend Alleghany Meadows and many other advanced students. The class designed, built, and learned to fire a bottle shaped Soda kiln there with surplus bricks.

Sam then spent five years in Dallas, Texas as the lab tech at Brookhaven College, building An Urban Wood Kiln,” and traveling to Haystack, Anderson Ranch, and Juniata College, diving into the rich ideas of Peter Beasecker, Lisa Ehrich, Chris Staley, Jeff Oestreich, Randy Johnston, Jack Troy, Peter Pinnell, Ah Leon, Dolorita and Crucita Melchor. Sam met his soulmate Sarah Troderman (Clarkson) at Anderson Ranch in 1996, and they were married on Mt. Tam in 1997.

Sam earned an MFA at Penn State University in 2000, where he built and fired two kilns with vegetable oil, learned to single fire his work, and developed celadon glazes to echo the Lung Chuan and Chun glazes of the song Dynasty, layering them into contemporary porcelain and stoneware forms.

After Penn State, Sam and Sarah worked at Richard Roth’s studio in Winlock Washington, Anderson Ranch Art Center, Taught a fall concentration at Penland school of crafts, and worked at Hoyman browe studio in Ukiah California before settling on Patrick Road in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Sam has been making pots on Patrick Road in Bonny Doon California since 2002, and teaching Ceramics at Cabrillo College in Aptos CA since 2007.

Sam earned an MBA in sustainable management in 2004 presidio graduate school, and has developed his own value and values approach to sustainable investing in common stocks.

When not teaching or making art, Sam tries to surf as much as possible, chops wood, makes tea and practices Yoga and Meditation.