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James Lovera (American, 1920-2015)
James Lovera (1920 - 2015) was an important California ceramicist known for his colorful lava-glazed porcelain vessels. Now as an honorary member of the Association of California Ceramic Artists, Lovera spent almost 40 years in Northern California where he studied, worked, and taught ceramics during a time of great change and transition to the art form. Although he worked with many of the master ceramicists of his day, Lovera centered his focus on creating works that were uniquely his own.
His work was influenced by the Asian porcelain traditions and Modernism of the 20th century, reflecting ideas of simplicity and using the vessel as a type of canvas. Lovera was born in San Lorenzo, outside San Francisco, and went on to study at the California School of Fine Arts in San Francisco, where he initially planned on studying painting since ceramics was still considered only a craft at the time. However, after entering the world of glazing and learning from various ceramicists, Lovera decided to switch his artistic direction towards clay.After buying a kiln with a friend and unsuccessful attempts at producing ware, he enrolled at the University of California, Berkley. For a short time he studied education before returning to clay. Lovera ended up building his own kick wheel and converting the chicken house on his family farm into his ceramic studio.
The California Pottery Company in Niles Canyon hired Lovera as a researcher in 1945 to test glazes and other variables for the company’s dinnerware products. While there, Lovera incised designs into plaster slabs instead of using flat glaze test tiles and pressed the clay tiles onto the designs, creating more interesting reactions of the glaze on both sides of the surfaces. The pottery company later sold some of his ceramic buttons in charity fundraisers.
Lovera became a professor of Ceramic Art and Color and Design at San Jose State University in 1948 and taught there for 38 years, and in 1986 he became Professor Emeritus at the California School of Fine Arts in San Francisco. In 1976, he went on an advanced study trip to Japan, where he became greatly influenced by the Japanese aesthetic, which focused on design and finish instead of the expressionistic and figurative work by other noted ceramicists at the time. By using the clay vessel like a canvas, Lovera experimented with firing and glazing to discover new ways of perfecting his objects.
In 1986, he retired as a professor and moved to the Sierra foothills east of Sacramento. There, he built a home and studio which he named Running Ridge and continues working there today, using the beautiful landscape as his inspiration. Lovera’s work has been shown both nationally and internationally and is part of several collections worldwide, including: The Mint Museum of Craft & Design in Charlotte, North Carolina; the Shigaraki Ceramic Museum in Japan; the Museum of Modern Art in New York; the Smithsonian’s Renwick Museum and the Crocker Museum in Sacramento. He passed away in 2015.
“True art is expressed through intellectual and visual awareness, honest inner discipline and spiritual insight. Craft becomes a true art form when its elements speak the universal language of the spirit. When an object is broken down into its basic elements and still leaves its observer in awe, the underlying principles are at one with the universe. The unknown is the element of the individual; the mystery, the uniqueness of the being.” -James Lovera
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