I loved the holidays when I was a child, and I still do. My mother was always allergic to Christmas trees so I never participated in the trimming of the tree or smelled that Christmas tree smell. But obviously there were other Christmas traditions that stuck. Incidentally, it was a mug that ignited the Christmas spirit in me every year. My mother would emerge from the attic with this dusty ceramic; the decal on the surface depicted a night sky with Santa Claus’s sleigh and his eight reindeer soaring over a residential neighborhood. I can still remember grabbing the handle (which was a silhouette of St. Nick’s profile) out of my mother’s hand and running downstairs to fill it with milk. The best part of this particular ceramic was that when you turned the mug over to drink from it, an 8 bit version of Jingle Bells erupted from the coveted object! My brother and I fought like hell over it.
There was other household holiday gear that my mother dusted off every year. Platters, serving spoons, the plate where we left Santa’s cookies by the tree. Even though we only used it once or twice a year, it was totally worth having.
The pottery we chose for this pop-up shop radiates holiday vibes, but isn’t so festive that you have pack it away after New Years. Garth Clark and I surveyed the community for a handful of designers to show in our shop this season. Each of them has PROMISED to postmark your purchase by Christmas Eve and hopefully earlier.
You can click on any of the artist names or photographs to be taken to the store. Read about all the designers below, but most importantly:
“In the midst of the information age, computerized scanners and image editors, desktop publishing, the internet, and an ever improving silk screen industry have combined to make custom ceramic decals a viable option for contemporary makers. Imagery that was once dictated by commercial decal manufacturers can now be circumvented through greater accessibility of custom decals: imagery of any sort the maker desires. My most recent body of work celebrates how decalcomania has shaped our field while questioning what constitutes an image that remains particular to the field of ceramics.
“There is a range in this body of work from explicit to subversive, irreverent to respectful, odious to endearing. Brooks’ aim is to piece together some semblance of gay life, culture, and sexuality through altering and collaging the heteronormative stock imagery overwhelmingly present in commercial ceramic decals and figurines.” — Jeremy Brooks
Jeremy R. Brooks was born in Detroit, MI in 1979. He received his BFA in art and design from Grand Valley State University and his MFA in ceramic art from Alfred University. Jeremy has balanced his career between working as a ceramic artist and teaching in academia. Some of his honors include receiving the emerging artist award by the National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts (NCECA), and being selected as a guest of honor at the XXIst International Biennial of Vallauris, France. Jeremy is currently a Visiting Assistant Professor of ceramics at Southern Illinois University & resides in Carbondale, IL.
“This collection is made in Parian, a type of porcelain developed in the 19th century in Britain to imitate the qualities of marble. The external surfaces of the vessels are incised with parallel lines, using a technique that fractures the clay. I am particularly interested in exploring the contrast between the textured and smooth surfaces on the carved pieces. After firing, this contrast was accentuated by grinding and polishing the smooth surfaces. Each piece is unique, not just because it is hand-carved, but also because the underlying form of each vessel constrains the flow of the incised lines. The carved exteriors create a sense of movement which contrasts with the stillness and solidity of the vessel forms.” — Lanty Ball
Since Ball earned her Ceramics MA at the University of Central Lancashire, the artist has undertaken a month long residency at the Archie Bray Foundation for Ceramic Arts. She was awarded this residency as part of the Potclays Emerging Makers Prize at the International Ceramics Festival in Aberystwyth in 2015.
“Culture has been defined as what we make of the world. My pots enter an age noted for frenzied activity and visual distraction. This world fragments our lives in profound ways. Functional pottery is my cultural attempt, through the material of clay, to bring order and human dignity to the merely physical act of consuming food and drink. As my pots are used daily, my hope is that they carry measures of quiet and nourishment for body and spirit. I imagine people at a dinner table, workspace, or office cubicle where food and drink are served and humanized by a hospitable, well-ordered pot.
“The pieces are made using a casting process in molds I design and make. The clay body is a red stoneware; the glazes are all lead free. Clarity is given to my simple forms by contrasting glazed and unglazed surfaces. Pure clean glazes render elegant presentation of food and drink.” — Eshelman Pottery
Paul and Laurel Eshelman run Eshelman Pottery in Elizabeth, Illinois, the small farming town where they live.
“I make ceramic sculptures that are shaped by the interplay of masses and voids. Absence and presence, light and shadow, stasis and motion are subject matter. The dimensional tension and dynamics of human figures found in Greek and Buddhist temple pediments, and most recently, the structural flatness and synthesis of planar shapes in Cubist still life paintings intrigue me.
“The rich, tonal subtleties of winter hues that I experience in Allegany County are sources for color: slate grays, deep rusts, and cool tans. The subdued colors and sand-like glazed surfaces direct the focus to other issues and create ambiguities about visual and tactile perceptions.
“An investigation of cups and cup boxes was the primary premise/thesis for my graduate studies from 1972-74. In 2014, I decided to revisit my inquiries into this hand-held utilitarian object. This time, the catalyst was the adult beverage – a small cup to hold an ice cube and beverage of personal choice. White was essential to reveal the color of the liquid.” — Anne Currier
Currier has received awards from the National Endowment for the Arts, the New York Foundation for the Arts, the Virginia A. Groot Foundation, the American Crafts Council and Alfred Univeristy. In addition to numerous private collections, Ms. Currier’s work is in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC; the Los Angeles Country Museum of Art; Smithsonian Institutions, Washington, D.C.; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Kyung-ju, South Korea; and the Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia.
Anne Currier is a Professor Emerita of Ceramics at Alfred University.
“The clay I use to make these chawan is from eastern Austria. I dig it myself from a large deposit that has fallen into neglect, but had previously been in use as early as the first century AD, when the area was part of the Roman empire. The clay is very short and contains grains of iron ore, which give an interesting texture to the fired pieces. The Romans made tools and weapons from this easily obtained iron. The bowls are thrown on a kick wheel and after drying for several days, they are faceted with a knife. After that they are trimmed, but the foot is pinched on, using a formal quote from 16th century Rhinean stoneware.
“After the bisque firing (at about 800°C) I apply a glaze made from reed ash, wood ash, feldspar, china clay and various metallic oxides. In the reducing glaze firing (at 1250°C) this glaze matures to a semi-matte, sometimes wrinkled finish. The pots do not rest on their feet during this firing, but are supported by 5 fireclay bungs topped with seashells. The marks from the seashells can be seen around the bottom of the pieces. Finally an overglaze containing actual platinum is applied with a brush on top of the glaze and the chawan are fired for a third time (at 750°C).” — Matthias Kaiser
Matthias Kaiser lives and works in Austria. He has trained at Parsons school of Design in NYC and apprenticed with Fumitada Moriwaki in Seto and with Takashi Nakazato in Karatsu. Since opening his studio in 1993, he has exhibited in Europe, Asia, America and Australia. In 2015 he started The Loyal Exports, a project that brings his work to countries that it would not otherwise reach and documents the ceramics as well as the customers and their living situations.
SPADONE is the product of brother and sister design team, Miles Spadone and Molly Spadone. Growing up in their father’s furniture studio in Kennebunk, Maine, the pair observed furniture design and production from a young age. The siblings’ early education ignited a passion that is a clear inspiration for them both to this day. This multi-disciplinary team works fluently in clay, gypsum, wood, and plastic to produce highly functional objects of beauty in their eponymous design studio.
For the first time, SPADONE Home is available exclusively through Cfile Holiday Pop-Up. SPADONE Home will be launching a full line in March. Look out for details on cfile.daily.
“I believe an artist’s primary purpose is to generate questions rather than to take a position that provides the viewer with answers. With this approach I move through the world vacillating between my skepticism of human intention and being captivated by the intricate forming processes found in consumer driven systems of objects. Through constant negotiations with the urban setting and the people that inhabit those places with me, I construct unlikely sculptures, create unconventional functional pottery and arrange installations that disrupt the expected commodity objects and the spaces they inhabit. My intent is to pose questions and manipulate ideas that fracture the human experience of our routine lives.” — Benjamin Cirgin
Cirgin (b.1979) is a visual artist and educator who worked as craftsman building furniture and renovating historic homes before earning his BFA in ceramics and sculpture from Indiana University Bloomington, and his MFA in studio art from the California College of the Arts in San Francisco, CA. Cirgin has worked as an exhibitions coordinator for the Grunwald Gallery of Art and California College of the Arts undergraduate galleries, studio manager and community arts instructor at the Bloomington Clay Studio while teaching workshops and attending residencies across the country in the field of ceramics and sculpture. His work has been exhibited in galleries across the country, and has received numerous awards and grants in the field of art and craft.
Cirgin is currently and instructor, artist-in-residence, and studio technician at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville.
“As a potter, functional wares provide me with a sense of human connection between what I make and the people that use them. I want these pieces to provide a sense of calm and comfort in their given homes. Porcelain clay with curved edges and delicate textured exteriors, each piece strives to convey a sense of softness to create something beautiful, yet approachable. Pinched surfaces topped with flowing, translucent glazes carry feelings of tranquility in the finished product. Playful drawings of lines or plants may grow across the surface referencing the serenity found in nature, and my feelings of home in the Pennsylvania woods.” — Liana Agnew
Liana Agnew was born and raised in Pittsburgh, PA. She received her BFA in Ceramics and a BSE in Art Education from Edinboro University of Pennsylvania in 2015. She has exhibited nationally in galleries such as Red Star Studios, The Clay Studio of Philadelphia, Workhouse Gallery, Charlie Cummings Gallery, the Erie Art Museum, the Milwaukee Institute of Art, the Morean Center for Clay, and more. In summer of 2015, Agnew received a scholarship to attend a residency at Watershed Center for the Ceramic Arts. During the 2015-2016 year she completed a residency at Brockway Center for Arts and Technology. Liana is currently a full time resident artist at Morean Center for Clay in Saint Petersburg, Florida for the 2016-2017 year.
Ceramics have been used historically to communicate ideas, advocate social change and propagate political sentiment. Michelle Erickson follows in this tradition.
Michelle Erickson’s work The Party’s Over adapts Paul Revere’s 1774 engraving The Able Doctor as a modern reinvention of this practice. Transposed portraits of key contemporary self-proclaimed ‘tea party politicians and activists fit alarmingly well into this brutal 18th century satire. The composition depicting the violation of an allegorical America dually represents the broader notion of an imperiled Liberty facilitated greatly by citizens united and more specifically the inconceivable plight of women’s rights at risk in 21st century America.
Erickson’s limited edition Made In USA mugs use a line of commercially available American made Starbucks mugs as the vehicle for her prescient 2013 political satire The Party’s Over. The mugs are clobbered with her ceramic print, pink luster and gold enameled logo incorporating the company’s makers mark as title.
Michelle Erickson is the co-owner of Period Designs based in Yorktown, Pennsylvania and she is a regular contributor to Ceramics in America.