Once the domain of archaeologists seeking remnants of past civilisations, ceramics – or the art of creating objects, both decorative and functional from earthenware – are having a moment. From simple tableware which demands to be wrapped up and offered as a gift, to elaborate and conceptually driven pieces better suited to art galleries and collectors, we examine some of the most innovative emerging ceramicists working in the medium today, and formulate lengthy wishlists in the process…
The Radical Perfectionist: Cody Hoyt
It takes a steady hand to create prismatic clay works so immaculate that they look like they could have been 3D-printed, but Brooklyn-based artist Cody Hoyt, who originally trained as a painter and printmaker, is a master of precision. His graphic pieces are composed out of complex amalgamations of clay slabs, betraying a perfectionism that’s rarely seen in ceramics. Even more excitingly, many of Hoyt's impressive pieces are decorated in dazzling speckled patterns in a manner suggestive of a tropical camouflage print, so not only are they technically subversive but they’re also aesthetically pleasing, bridging the chasm between fine art and function with aplomb.
The Palette Pusher: Angel Oloshove
Angel Oloshove is the queen of the rainbow glaze – there’s nary a painter in existence with a handle on soft pastel gradients as capable as hers. Oloshove lives and works in Houston, Texas, and while she has exhibited her ceramic sculptures around the United States, she also sells in a whole host of boutiques, so her collection, which is all unulating curves and softly inviting colourways, is pleasingly accessible to potential owners.
The Contemporary Classicist: Shino Takeda
Shino Takeda’s ceramics have a raw, earthy feel to them, which is wholly appropriate considering that the artist blends the rich ceramics heritage of Kyushu, the southern Japanese island she was born on, with contemporary references from New York, where she is based today. The result is an eclectic, traditional-feeling collection of pieces in which texture and a handmade finish take centre-stage – there’s not a piece in the collection that you won’t wish to reach out and touch or to get a better look at – and which would make delightful gifts for friends and family. To be used both functionally, to elevate a morning coffee or to house a bouquet of flowers, or simply decoratively, perched atop a mantlepiece. This is art that you can do far more than just look at.
The Free Spirit: Jennie Jieun Lee
Idiosyncracies are to be celebrated, many a ceramicist will assure you, but perhaps none so passionately as South Korea-born, Brooklyn-based practitioner Jennie Jieun Lee. The artist trades in experimentation and creativity, not precision, and the pieces which result from her imperfection-embracing practice are immediately recognisable and utterly charming as a result.
Jieun Lee's work ranges from abstract faces in mask-like apparitions and small bust-like figures of feminine heads, to topsy-turvy vases bearing chaotic appliqué compositions. She is prolific, too – exhibiting, selling and making in tandem – and forging a distinct path for herself in New York's burgeoning ceramics scene in the process.
The Postmodernist Potter: Recreation Center
If you dream of retiring to a Memphis-decorated abode in 1980s Milan with Sottsass, Du Pasquier and company to discuss the governing principles of postmodernism and the promising versatility of plastic laminate, you’ll likely find something to love in these vibrant vessels by Josephine Heilpern, who works under the name Recreation Center.
Heilpern’s focus is on functional pieces, which she elevates through the liberal application of colour and pattern, to create extraordinary and yet delightfully versatile mugs, jugs, cups and saucers in rich, textural clays which are often at least partially exposed.
The Tactile Minimalist: Clam Lab
Clair Catillaz, who works under the curiously satisfying moniker Clam Lab, creates the chicest vessels that the ceramics world has to offer. Understated and functional in shape and form, their chief attraction is their glazes, which are at once organic and textural without ever veering into maximalism. Particularly gorgeous are her Raku-fired pieces, finished with a semi-metallic sheen which nonetheless exposes some of the speckled beauty of the clay beneath.
The Graphic Innovator: Dana Bechert
Artist and ceramicist Dana Bechert works across many media, from textile design to printmaking, but her ceramic pieces,which are decorated through the unusual process of partially removing colour in meticulous graphic patterns, to create a striking and intricate, but nonetheless organic, effect. In addition to a range of vases and pots Bechert has collaborated with friends on a range of food-related rejects, one of which is a collection of vessels to be used in brewing pour-over coffee, making her work as functionally as it is aesthetically pleasing.
The Abstractionist: Ben Medansky
Many of Ben Medansky’s sculptural ceramics are less like functional pots, and more like tiny chunks of towering architectural sculptures which have been extracted from their original industrial environment and mystically rendered in clay. This is an overwhelmingly positive trait, we scarecely need to clarify; his abstract pieces create an exciting counterpoint to organic-looking forms and subtle glazes favoured by many of his peers. What's more, they make for a unexpectedly appropriate home for an air plantnot to mention an interesting intervention in their own right.
The Visionary: Ulrika Strömbäck
A fine artist who takes earthenware as her medium and creates from it enormous, fragile, powerful sculptures, Ulrika Strömbäck is unlike any other artist working in clay. Her pieces are reminiscent as much of industrial shapes and architectural structures as they are of naturally occurring organisms, while her instagram is a study in texture and surface. Strömbäck is currently in residency at Lefebvre et Fils Gallery in Paris, where she will be displaying new work in January.
One third of east London-based design collective Nous Vous, William Edmonds is primarily an illustrator, but his charming forms manifest themselves just as easily through sculpture, printmaking, books and ceramics as they do through drawing, making him a veritable jack of all trades. He’s comparatively new to pots, but his delicately curved pieces, glazed with a playful haphzard touch, make the dream gift and lend themselves perfectly to collecting.