After graduating with Distinction from the University of Minnesota, Morris, Samuel Johnson apprenticed with Richard Bresnahan from 1996 until 1999—the longest apprenticeship in the studio’s thirty year history. In 2000, he studied Scandinavian ceramic design at Denmark’s Design School in Copenhagen. While in Denmark, he also worked at the International Ceramic Center in Skaelskor. In 2001, Sam traveled to Japan and worked for a time in the studio of the renowned potter Koie Ryoji, but also took the opportunity to visit other notable ceramists including Goro Suzuki, Kanzaki Shiho, Isezaki Jun and Ryuichi Kakurezaki. After returning to the U.S. he enrolled in the graduate program at the University of Iowa, completing his M.F.A. in 2005. Since that time, he has worked as Assistant Professor of Art at the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University.
Sam’s technical mastery and understanding of pottery is formidable and his work often reflects his ongoing investigations. Presently he continues to produce finely finished robust forms whose somber palette results from natural wood firing of unglazed iron-rich clay. Recently, he also began to produce works with a fine white, porcelaneous slip applied over a dark clay body—reminiscent of Korean Buncheong ware (known as Kohiki in Japan). Shadows of the underlying clay are revealed where the slip pulls thin across the undulating body. The effect is artfully casual, and yet chaste and solemn.
Dr. Matthew Welch
Curator, Stoked: Five Artists of Fire and Clay
Saint John’s University, Collegeville, MN; 2010