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December 29, 2004
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Marble loses noted artist, character

Thanos Johnson, an artist and colorful character known affectionately as the "godpotter" in the tiny hamlet of Marble, died Wednesday in Arizona.He was 82 years old.The former 10th Mountain Division soldier moved to Marble in 1945, eventually opening a ceramics studio and gallery there. Fellow residents were saddened to learn of his death yesterday. In the little community south of Carbondale, Johnson fit right in with his long, flowing white beard, funky house and his wit."He was always good for dry jokes," said Jan Patenaude, who resides in Marble with her husband, Robert Jamison."Thanos was this amazing potter - amazing human being, I should say," said potter Diane Kenney, founder of the Carbondale Clay Center and its former director. "He was a very spicy and fiery character."His work was perhaps best known in Korea; Patenaude said he documented Korean folk pottery for the Smithsonian."He was basically considered a national treasure in Korea," she said.Johnson's pottery emerged during an exciting period in which Eastern and Western styles converged, Kenney said."He represented a certain generation in the ceramic arts in this country," she said. "He was very proud of the fact that he'd met and worked with Shoji Hamada [a renowned Japanese potter]."His work was influenced by Korean and Japanese styles, said renowned ceramic artist Paul Soldner of Aspen. "It's sad to hear," he said of Johnson's death. "He's a good friend."Johnson was born on July 23, 1922, in Howell, Mich., and grew up in New York City."He found himself in Colorado when he joined the Army's 10th Mountain Division at Camp Hale and knew it was the place he wanted to spend his life," his daughter, Thana Fineman, said Wednesday from Arizona.Johnson also had a passion for watercolor painting and worked in other mediums, as well, but he was recruited by a fellow Crystal Valley resident to teach pottery at a high school in California. Eventually he became a professor at the College of Marin in Marin County, Calif.More recently, he had split his time between Marble and Phoenix.Johnson is survived by four children: daughter Thana and sons Demetrios, Aristides and Kosta. They were with him when he died, following a brief illness.A funeral will be held at St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church in Grand Junction; arrangements are pending. The family is also planning a local memorial service and burial in Marble.The Carbondale Valley-Journal contributed to this report. Janet Urquhart's e-mail address is janet@aspentimes.com


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The Aspen Times Updated Dec 30, 2004 09:21AM Published Dec 29, 2004 12:00AM Copyright 2004 The Aspen Times. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.