Houston Center for Contemporary Craft is pleased to present a solo exhibition by outstanding Lubbock ceramicist and educator, James C. Watkins, who was recently named a Texas Master by HCCC. Watkins joins an impressive roster of other Texas Master awardees—including curator Clint Willour (Houston) and artists Harlan Butt (Denton), Cindy Hickok (Houston), Rachelle Thiewes (El Paso), Piero Fenci (Nacogdoches), and Sandie Zilker (Houston)—recognized for their roles as career artists, professionals, or educators who have made a significant impact on the field of craft in Texas.
James C. Watkins has built an extraordinary career as a ceramicist and an educator. He received his MFA from Indiana University and a BFA from the Kansas City Art Institute. His work has been featured in 40 solo exhibitions and 164 group exhibitions around the world, and he has pieces in 23 permanent collections, including the White House Collection of American Crafts at the Clinton Library (Little Rock, AR), the Shigaraki Institute of Ceramic Studies (Shigaraki, Japan), the Everson Museum (Syracuse, NY), and, most recently, the Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian American Art Museum (Washington, D.C.) and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (Houston, TX).
With over 40 years of experience working with clay, Watkins masterfully constructs double-walled vessels, whose forms and surfaces are inspired by his memories of growing up in the South, encounters with nature, and his experience working in Asia. Building upon a history of tradition, he skillfully manipulates his clay surfaces using alternative firing techniques, creating lustrous and colorful surfaces enhanced by the atmosphere of the kiln. For some pieces, he collects dirt from the dust storms around his studio in order to create orange-to-black surfaces. As seen in his Double-Walled Basket (2018), Watkins also wields an iridescent rainbow of color through a fuming technique that he employs as the kiln cools down from a high firing.
Even after decades of experience, Watkins continues to evolve his practice through experimentation and by learning new techniques. In his Reflections series (2014), he etches silhouettes of his wares using a laser cutter, while multiple firings produce an array of warm hues that allow him to reference the synesthetic glow that emanates from vessels within the kiln.
As an educator, Watkins strives to impart his enthusiasm and passion for making. While in graduate school, Watkins taught as an associate instructor at Indiana University in Bloomington and later worked as a visiting professor at Hampton University in Hampton, Virginia, before moving to Lubbock, Texas. Between 1978 and 1983, he served as the director and organizer of the Mackenzie Terrace Pottery Center, a Lubbock-sponsored, public arts facility. Later, he taught architectural delineation for 35 years and architectural ceramics for 12 years at the College of Architecture at Texas Tech University (TTU). He served as the architectural delineation coordinator, from 1998 – 2003, and later became the assistant dean of undergraduate studies, from 2003 -2006.
During his tenure, Watkins received numerous awards, including the TTU President’s Excellence in Teaching Award and the Art on the Llano Estacada Legacy Award from TTU’s Museum Association. In 2005, he built a ceramics program in Vietnam at the Ho Chi Minh City University of Architecture as a Senior Fulbright Scholar. In 2006, he received TTU’s highest honor, the Paul Whitfield Horn Professorship, an award recognizing outstanding research and other creative scholarly achievements; in 2019, he became a Paul Whitfield Horn Professor Emeritus, following his retirement.
Watkins is the author of several books, including Reflections Made of Memories (2019); Alternative Kilns & Firing Techniques (2004) with Paul Andrew Wandless; and Architectural Delineation: Presentation Techniques and Projects (2000) with James T. Davis. He has written numerous articles for national and international magazines, including Ceramics Monthly, Studio Potter, New Ceramics: The European Ceramics Magazine, and China Ceramic Artist.
For more information about James C. Watkins, visit www.jcwclayworks.com.
*Image Credit - Studio portrait of James C. Watkins. Photo by Bonni Oakes.