James Lawton earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Constructive Design at Florida State University, Tallahassee in 1976 and MFA in Ceramics at Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge in 1980.  

Lawton joined the faculty at the College of Visual and Performing Arts at UMass Dartmouth in 1998 where he is currently Professor of Ceramics and Chair of the Artisanry Department.    Prior appointments include the School of the Art Institute of Chicago 1992-98, where he was tenured Professor, as well as visiting professorships at Alfred University, Louisiana State University, and University of Michigan. Additionally, he leads workshops and presents lectures across the country and abroad.

He is on the Board of Trustees of the Watershed Center for the Ceramic Arts, an artist residency located in Newcastle, Maine and has served previously on the Board of Studio Potter Magazine.  

Lawton has received numerous awards, including two National Endowment Visual Arts Fellowships, the South Carolina Artist Fellowship Grant, and academic research grants from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and University of Massachusetts Dartmouth.

Lawton’s work is in the collections of the Renwick Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C; the Victoria and Albert Museum, London; L.A. County Museum of Art, Los Angeles; the Mint Museum, Charlotte, NC; the Museum of Ceramic Art, Alfred, NY; and the Icheon World Ceramic Center, South Korea, among others; and in numerous private collections.

Lawton maintains studios in South Dartmouth, MA and Bluffton, SC with his wife, the Printmaker Yvonne Leonard.