Bruce Tomkinson “I want my students to leave class feeling they can hardly wait till tomorrow to start doing it all again.”

“Right now I’m restoring an old house that we’ve had for 20 years,” says Bruce Tomkinson, potter, sailor and—just now—electrician, carpenter and plumber. “I’m doing all the work myself to make our place look new. I just basically love taking something that’s kind of run down and ugly and working on it until something beautiful emerges.”

In Bruce’s pottery classes, students educate their hands to create visions of beauty from common clay. The term “pottery” means far more than making a pot, according to Bruce. “We can create anything from functional objects to ceramics to sculptures you might find in the Louvre,” he says. “The techniques haven’t changed much over thousands of years. We fire the clay in sawdust or sometimes with seaweed to get pink and lavender tones on our pots. And I teach all the major techniques because I want my students to be aware of all the possibilities in ceramics.” Bruce says that once you get your hands in clay, it can be difficult to get them out. “I was an advertising design major when I stopped by a ceramics lab that looked like fun,” he recalls with a laugh. “And I’ve been at it ever since.”

Bruce has been teaching at SMC since 1966. “And the school has changed very positively over the years. I love having students from all nations,” he says. “I learn about their backgrounds and find that for many of them, their cultures don’t provide them with access to the arts. So working with clay is a way for them to explore new worlds of expression. And that’s what I’m here for: to help them get excited, to instill love for ceramics and help them excel.”

Read more stories from present and past years in the SMC Student Spotlight Archive.