I'm always a fan of late-night Etsy digging, especially when updating my collection of cactus planters is involved. There is much to be said about beautiful handmade pottery, which I feel was previously (and undeservingly) pushed off of the radar by more mainstream forms of art. However, a new wave of young ceramists has arrived—and they believe that designing for functionality (i.e. creating usable objects such as planters, cups, and bowls) is much more addictive.
Selling ceramics has never been easier, too, with established platforms like Etsy that seamlessly connect products with an eager audience of buyers. Keeping pace with the demand can be nearly impossible, however, especially for young artists. "All of a sudden I'm faced with searching for interns and a new studio space," says Emily Reinhardt of her booming success with her shop, The Object Enthusiast, "and I'm doing this all while keeping up with orders and new ideas".
Luckily, many have support from local ceramics communities, artist friends, and shared studios, all which help to share the pressure (as well as kilns, tools, and clay). Whether based out of Brooklyn, London, or Omaha, here are some of the new faces working to turn a #plainwhiteIkeatablewaresets world into something morecolorful, playful, and entirely handmade.
Josephine Heilpern of Recreation Center
Based in: Brooklyn, NY
"I studied printmaking at Cooper Union. The more I got into making things, the non-functionality of objects started to bother me. So I got started in ceramics while living on a farm in the Catskills. On my time off, I would play with clay and make silly objects. It felt right, and I felt like I understood the material. Also, I love food and cooking and the idea of making my own dishware was so satisfying. Making one mug doesn’t take too long, it’s when you have to make 100 that it starts to feel like forever."
Based in: Brooklyn, NY
"I got started in ceramics because I was trying to be creative but not critical—I was burnt out on “art education”, and I also needed better pots for my plants. I started making pots after work, trying to make myself laugh. Just trying to make something that was fun during and after the “making” process. Something I wanted to be around. I live in New York, so I’ve been looking at people my whole life. The faces on my pots are halfway between the clay and my thoughts. Most of the time I have no idea what to expect when I start making a pot."
Emily Reinhardt of The Object Enthusiast
Based in: Omaha, Nebraska
"I’m inspired to create objects that sit among or hold your most treasured possessions. I am endlessly inspired by careful collectors, their homes, and what their favorite things mean to them. I want to make objects that slow us down a bit. I took a beginning ceramics course in college and completely fell in love. When I graduated, the head of the ceramics department, Yoshi Ikeda, gave me his wheel and kiln. I feel like I owe it all to him. Right now I do everything in small batches. I spend a few days making, then firing, then glazing, then gold leafing, and then it’s time to start over again. Each week feels eerily similar, like in Groundhog’s Day."
Leah Reena Goren
Based in: Brooklyn, NY
"My mom is an artist and a teacher, and she’s always had a kiln in her classroom. I was never too interested in making ceramics, but a couple of years back, she taught me how to make a simple pinch pot and how to paint detail with underglaze. The process was so satisfying that I rushed to sign up for classes in NYC. Many of my ceramic pieces are based directly off of drawings, and I’m always usingmy sketchbook as reference. I make ceramics mainly for fun, so I tend to stick to my favorite subjects: girls, plants, flowers, cats, and other animals.
Based in: Vancouver, Canada
Shop: www.lindseyhampton.com "I started doing ceramics about three and a half years ago. At the time, I was working as a freelance graphic designer and was itching for something that would complement that. I took a six week course at a studio in Vancouver and fell in love with it. I did it as a fun little hobby for the first couple of years, and then one day I made the decision to take it more seriously, to make things I could sell and wholesale, and here I am. I love making functional pieces that you would have them out in your home, not tucked away in a cupboard."
Rachel Howe of Small Spells
Based in: Brooklyn, NY
"I started taking ceramics classes in Brooklyn after breaking my arm really badly. I figured it would be a fun way to regain strength in my arm and hand. My goal has always been to make objects that are affordable, but also unusual and high-quality. I look at a lot of graphic design, textile design, fashion— anything that uses patterns and shapes. There are a lot of people making ceramics in Brooklyn right now, and on the whole the community is supportive, generous, and noncompetitive."
Based In: London, England
"I studied tailoring at London College of Fashion but realized that it wasn't my cup of tea. One day out of curiously, I went to a pottery class at Hackney City Farm and it was love at first touch! I just felt instantly connected with clay. I have always been making things: drawings, paintings, dolls, clothes, even street art. I've been drawing faces ever since I can remember, and when you paint on a canvas, you see the results right away. With ceramics it's totally different. It isn't predictable, and you never know what's going to happen until youopen the kiln, no matter how experienced you are. It's like opening a box full of surprises."
Based in: Baltimore, MD
"I began working with clay with my mother, who is also a ceramic artist. I got a handle on the potter’s wheel in high school, and at MICA I used ceramics as a way to problem solve design issues in three dimensions. Most of my inspiration comes from geometric patterns in nature. I love collecting plants, rocks, shells, and clay, and I sometimes use them as surface decoration on pots. Native American pottery is a huge influence for my patterns too, and the technique I use is loosely based on the Acoma Pueblo. I am also drawn to Japanese patterns, especially in textiles."
Erin Smith of SHIP&SHAPE
Based in: Minneapolis, MN
"My interest in ceramics broadened when I learned slip casting and moldmaking in college, so I’ve sort of grown up with my hands in mud. There is absolutely no rhyme or reason to my creative process. I could be eating a piece of toast or staring into my closet when an idea will pop into my head. It usually stays there until I can make it a reality. My dream project would be to make an entire bathroom out of ceramic. The tiles, the bathtub, sink, the toilet. I love to tinker, and I would have a great time creating a functioning toilet."
Based in: Los Angeles, CA
"The pots are a way for me to explore different techniques and bits of visual vocabulary. Painting on a threedimensional object requires different ways of painting. When I am making these guys I'm not just painting a picture, I'm making a little character. Artists in Los Angeles were, for the most part, responsible for ceramics being recognized as works of contemporary art in the United States. There is definitely a resurgence in ceramics workshops here."
Based In: Los Angeles, CA
"As a kid, I would constantly play with Silly Putty to construct small abstract sculptures. I've always loved earthy materials like clay and making objects with my hands. Today, my practice is inspired by attaching abstract work to functional pieces. I like the seriousness of ceramics: how it lasts forever (until it breaks) and how the medium has been around forever. The rich history of ceramic masters in California really influenced me to fulfill my creative endeavors. I'm inspired by the blue California seas and skies, the post-modern architecture, and escaping Los Angeles for the surrounding natural environment."