Michael Thornton in Japan

In September, 2018 the NMPCA received an email contact from a Carlos Baca through the contact form on www.claystudiotour.com:

Carlos Baca at Susie Rayos Marmon Elementary School, 1998
Carlos Baca 2nd row, left

My name is Carlos Baca. I am looking to locate my elementary art teacher MR. Thornton. He taught at Susie Rayos elementary in the 90s and I am wondering if that is the Mr. T who works here. Either way I would love to know if it is or is not.
Thanks, Carlos Baca

As webmaster, I forwarded the message to Michael Thornton. See Michael’s page on the claystudiotour website. Michael has been a long-time NMPCA member and served as a board member including a term as president of NMPCA. When Michael told us in 2017 that he was moving to Japan to pursue his ceramics, we were excited for him. Michael had been teaching in the Albuquerque Public Schools for many years and inspiring art enthusiasts like Carlos. Ultimate, though, the lure of the Japanese ceramic aesthetic called to Michael and he could not resist. Although we miss him greatly, through the wonders of FaceBook, we are able to learn of his activities and see pictures of his beautiful, sensitive pots.

Michael has had a one-person show at Gallery Seseragi in Saga City that opened on October 20. This came about after he had taken part in a group show in May at the gallery in Saga City. The gallery owner then offered to host a solo show for him later in the year. What a coup after working in Japan for one year!

Michael Thornton Working in Japan

Michael writes about his experience so far:

My year in Takeo working as resident artist at the Tadashi-gama Studio has consisted of exploring the local indigenous clays, notably the Arita porcelain, a smooth, black clay, and an interesting Bizen-like clay which for some reason is noticeably lighter in weight than other clays after firing. Also had some fun trying to cobble together a body to simulate Shigaraki clay by adding sand and feldspar chunks.
The forms I’m concentrating on are primarily utilitarian table ware. Sake cups, sake decanters, tea bowls, teapots, serving dishes, flower vases.
The Tadashi-gama Studio has an electric kiln for bisque firing, a large gas kiln, a medium-size wood kiln and a small kerosene-fired test kiln. Additionally, I have arranged to participate in the firing of a traditional wood-fired noborigama style climbing kiln owned by Kaneko San, a local Takeo potter.
While in Takeo I have also availed myself of lessons in “the way of tea” offered by a local Tea Master. Learning more about the tea ceremony will hopefully lend insight, and inform my efforts at making tea bowls.

Back to Carlos. Michael wrote back to Carlos and he replied to Michael with this message, an inspiration to see the effect of arts education:

Carlos Baca Teaching Art in Portland

Carlos wrote:

Wow! I’m so thrilled to hear it’s actually you. At SRM I was def a handful, but I vividly remember our famous art on a cart teacher!
I now teach elementary art in Portland Oregon. I told myself I would find you one day to say thank you. As a kid I gravitated towards the arts because of educators like you. I know I’d appreciate the same message one day.
I went to UNM and graduated with my art Ed degree in late 2013, moved to Portland and landed an art on a cart job where I taught for 2 years. In 2016 I got my masters in sped while teaching full time! I recently moved schools into a real classroom, WITH TWO SINKS!!!
I also just got word that next month I will be receiving the OAEA award for Elementary art Educator of the year for 2018/19. I was surprised when I heard but I’m thrilled to know somebody put my name in


Participating in the exchange between Carlos and Michael and learning more about their artistic paths since that fateful year in 1997 is inspiring for us to see the positive effects of arts education in the schools and also the joys of pursuing a life in the ceramic arts.

Judy Nelson-Moore

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