Thomas L. Dochterman, a ceramic artist-turned-tradesman who was a successful tile contractor, died Nov. 27 of cancer, his family said. He was 61.
Mr. Dochterman made his name early in Sacramento as a noted ceramic sculptor during the 1970s. He exhibited with contemporaries Fred Ball, Phil Schuster, Gregory Kondos and others at regional galleries, including the Crocker Art Museum.
He worked during the late 1970s for Sacramento County as a community artist funded by the federal Comprehensive Employment Training Act. His sculptures were installed as public art at the Rancho Cordova public library branch and the original Terminal B at Sacramento International Airport. He also created works for UC Davis Medical Center, KVIE Channel 6 and Bank of Alex Brown.
But after struggling for years to support his family, Mr. Dochterman changed careers. He put his talent as a ceramic artist to use as a professional tile setter.
"I lived for eight years in a studio warehouse and drove old cars," he told The Bee in 1995. "We'd get behind in the rent a couple of times a year. My daughter got to be a teenager, and I didn't want her to live that life anymore."
After completing a union apprenticeship program, Mr. Dochterman started his own contracting business at home. With help from his wife, Dochterman Tile and Stone grew to more than 10 employees with projects in three cities.
He created his own glazes and installed tile in many tract and custom homes. Clients included well-to-do homeowners and builders of a Street of Dreams project in Rancho Murieta.
In addition, he built a house in Curtis Park, where he lived recently, and a vacation house in Fort Bragg. He also continued sculpting.
"I'm doing the art I want to do," Mr. Dochterman said in 1995. "But now I'm able to go into more expensive materials. All my equipment is the latest and the best."
Born in 1950 in Berkeley, Thomas Lee Dochterman moved as a boy to Sacramento. He was one of four children raised by Marieda and William Dochterman, a longtime administrator of the Sacramento-El Dorado Medical Society.
He graduated from La Sierra High School in Carmichael and earned bachelor's and master's degrees in art from California State University, Sacramento. He had a daughter with his wife, Karen Hefner, who died last year.
Mr. Dochterman, who retired in 2005, played the flute and enjoyed surfing in the Pacific Ocean. He studied art history and traveled to France, Italy and Spain.
He had no regrets about giving up life as an artist to meet his obligations as a husband and father, said his daughter, Kimberly Dochterman Bonnell, a social worker.
"He felt very pleased at how I turned out and the fact that he had a granddaughter," Bonnell said. "He felt successful in that way."