Local ceramics artist Eric Dahlin died on Dec. 13 of pancreatic cancer. He was 72.
His most well-known works were clay-sculpted animals that had a playful and whimsical nature. Making art was Eric’s lifelong passion, his wife, Cheryl Dahlin, said.
“Art was his life,” she said. “(There) was something in him that drove him to do it. He had a gift for it. The art he made, it put a smile on your face.”
Eric Dahlin was born in Vancouver, Washington, on Christmas in 1945. He attended Mira Loma High School, graduating in 1964. He went on to American River College and Sacramento State, where he earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees.
He taught at Encina Preparatory for more than 30 years until his retirement in 2004. He donated art pieces to the Crocker Art Museum and the KVIE Gallery and its auctions throughout his life, his wife said.
Cheryl Dahlin said he first started making art at Mira Loma High School, where he first took an art class and was inspired. He worked at his dad’s bakery around the same time and made bread sculptures of animals.
“His art pieces took life, and they became your friends,” Cheryl Dahlin said.
Eric Dahlin’s friend and colleague Ken Waterstreet said that his art had a playful imagery to them that made them popular.
“Eric worked diligently and made pieces that were appealing because of their lighthearted view of humanity,” Waterstreet said. “His art was very personal.”
During Dahlin’s time at Encina Preparatory, he had a meaningful influence on students.
“Eric was able to affect the troubled and struggling kids,” Waterstreet said. “These odds-and-ends kids would find a home in the art program where they couldn’t find it in other subjects or in life. It was to the point where the school would ask him how could he could have kids who love being (in the art program) so much but they don’t enjoy other subjects.”
Cheryl Dahlin said that his students loved him.
“He started teaching in 1970, and still students contact him,” she said. “He just got a letter from a former student just two months before he died.”
Dahlin’s representative, Darling Oldham Neath, said in an email that Dahlin’s most recent exhibition was done alongside his art teacher and mentor Mel Ramos, another famous Sacramento artist who died this past October.
Neath added that Dahlin’s work is also currently shown at the Archival Gallery in Sacramento.
Cheryl Dahlin said that her husband was first diagnosed with pancreatic cancer two years ago and that doctors were not hopeful he would live past six months.
“They couldn’t believe he lasted this long,” she said. “But he was a fiercely independent and strong man, he did everything himself.”
He is survived by his wife, Cheryl Dahlin.