Aleka Tomlinson
Invited by Brian R. Jones

OC: Where is your current studio (city, state)? 
AT: Portland Oregon

OC: How long have you been working in clay?
AT: I have loved clay since I first touched it in grade school, but I began pursuit of it in a more serious manner in 2006 while taking courses at a community college. I worked primarily in clay for two years following, but took a hiatus from the material until returning to it in 2013.

OC: Can you share a bit about your education or background?
AT: It is a struggle for me to pin down exactly when my background in art began. Although I do have some years of formal training in ceramics through Clark Community College, and the Oregon College of Art and Craft, I did not obtain a degree. Due to medical complications in the middle of my second year, I left OCAC to recover and did not return. In the time following, I turned to bookbinding, sewing, and painting to fulfill my creative outlets. It was not until several years later, when I began working at Pigeon Toe Ceramics, that my hands returned to clay. I quickly climbed the ladder at Pigeon Toe, eventually finding myself throwing for production full time.

Through this work, I was able to reconnect with the material and the greater ceramics community in Portland. I was fortunate during that time to meet local ceramic artist Lilith Rockett and work closely with her as her studio assistant. The assistantship I had with her was a very special time for me, as I was quickly learning from her how difficult and wonderful it can be to make your own work for a living. It lit a fire in me to apply for the Emerging Artists Mentorship Program at the Ash Street Project, where I became one of four mentees under Thomas Orr and Joanna Bloom. My time there pushed me to find my voice as a ceramic artist.  

It was invaluable to me in what it taught me about my work and myself. Since completing my mentorship at the Ash Street Project, I have sought out similar experiences, which have brought me to assistantships with Brian Jones and Victoria Christen, who have both been very influential. Learning through a mentorship relationship has allowed me to grow as an artist with an abundance of freedom and support. It has propelled me forward allowing me to work with people I truly feel offer me candid feedback on my work, as well as a mutual respect for one another in the field.

OC: Who is your favorite artist/craftsperson (ceramic or otherwise)?
AT: I love Lucie Rie’s work for its elegance and the way she managed to make each pot into a beautifully complicated silhouette. Her svelte forms carry the information of their surfaces with a grace I greatly admire. Her story, as a woman wholeheartedly dedicated to her craft through some very difficult times in the world’s history, is inspiring to me as I find my place in it today.

OC: What is your favorite thing about clay/the ceramic process?
AT: Clay has always held my attention in that it is such a puzzle. There are limitless directions one may take the material and each of these hold great possibility, but also the risk of failure. Navigating this is an attractive challenge that allows me to slow down my busy thoughts, and an excellent time to reflect on interpersonal nostalgia. The difficulties and triumphs involved in the ceramic process bare an uncanny resemblance to daily life experiences, leaving me engaged with my work when it keeps me wondering if it will fail or not.

To find out more about Aleka, please visit her website: