Michal Fargo

Michal Fargo Ceramics

Michal Fargo's profile on Ceramics Now - View the works

"In my work, I am driven by textures, materials and non-traditional working methods.

The main subject I deal with is the thin line between imitation and interpretation - My work portraits the contrast between an urban lifestyle and a remote admiration of nature. When I work, I use the most naive and (sometimes) barbaric techniques while facing industrial materials. I try to capture a longing for authentic nature and at the same time to celebrate its progress and many benefits, and perhaps combine both emotions into one.

If I had to sum my main ambition in my work I would say that I seek authenticity that comes from a personal aesthetic perception. The fine definitions of art, craft and design seem to me unnecessary in relation to my work. While working on a piece, it is not so much a ‘narrative’ that I’m after, but rather, visibility and the abstract feelings that may be summoned by viewing the form. 

As an artist I would like to think that I am a highly individual maker searching for an aesthetic vision that would be completely my own.” Michal Fargo

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Michal Fargo: Else, 2013, Porcelain, fired mold technique, fired to cone 6 electric, Variable dimensions. Photos by Mel Bergman.

Interview with Els Wenselaers, Belgian ceramic artist

Interview with Els Wenselaers / Spotlight
By Ileana Surducan
Published in Ceramics Now Magazine Issue 2

What made you choose ceramics as a way of expressing yourself?

Clay is as good as any other medium, it is a material with lots of possibilities but it doesn’t influence my personal perception of art. Sometimes because of its limitations in format, in height, due to the measures of my kiln I have to find other solutions than I used before, but that are technical issues. I have also used other materials like papier maché before but the outcome of my figurines would be the same.

What is for you the importance of figurative representation?

It’s the essence of my work. It wouldn’t be possible for me to make work if my thoughts and feelings are not involved. All of them have a meaning and reflect my personal view on society. It’s not necessary for the public to understand it, you can enjoy them without knowing the background, but I need to be able to make them. Some of my works have a spiritual dimension. Love, understanding and insight, the meaning of existence - of evil, the happiness of life and the tragedy of death affect us, but are by themselves invisible. You can see it as a spiritual quest in which I will not flee, but indeed want to decompose and play with. The human figure in this case is the most suitable.

Els Wenselaers Contemporary Belgian Ceramics - The brain controller

Els Wenselaers: The Brain Controller, 2009, Ceramics, used materials, 25 x 29 x 16 cm.
> View more works by Els Wenselaers


Art no longer has to be “beautiful”, since the beauty of an object is derived not only from its appearance, but also from it’s concept and use. Tell us more about the aesthetic categories embodied by your work, and your motivation in choosing them.

The followers of modernism only repeat a trick, a cheap shock effect - desecrating the beauty. It has been repeated so many times and now it belongs to the popular circuit. An authentic artist is always looking for new styles, new forms to express himself and will not be guided by expectations. The emptiness of existence can contrast strongly with its beauty and vice versa. Beauty, ugliness, two sides of the same coin. It’s the perception of it that counts; something very beautiful can be experienced as ugly when you discover the essence, the inner side of it. Art exists in many layers, for those who want to see it. My work can be considered as superficially aesthetic, but the deeper meaning is of a different order. There isn’t much beauty in the emptiness of an existence as in the Sisyphus series. “L’existence précède l’essence”. Existence precedes essence. (Jean Paul Sartre)


The Human Hybrids series emphasizes a new twist of an old idea. Humans with animal characteristics have been a constant presence in many cultures since thousands of years ago. Compared to their traditional representation, what do you want to express with your works?

Indeed, one of the oldest known is an ivory sculpture, the Lion man of the Hohlenstein Stadel, Germany, a human-shaped figurine with a lion’s head, determined to be about 32,000 years old. Anthropomorphism is assigning human (behavioral) characteristics to animals. After reading an article about genetic engineering, I started on human hybrids. You can make goats, produce cobwebs or grow a human ear on the back of a mouse, etc. These techniques don’t stay within the walls of a laboratory. Since a number of years, you can find genetically manipulated fish in the aquarium trade. A familiar example is the glowfish: a gene of coral polyps was implanted in a zebrafish so that the fish has become luminous. Wherein ancient civilizations, men thought that they could get the spirit of the animal at their sides in the hunt by performing rituals, men now literally attempt to change certain qualities or appearances of people through genetic modification. Currently one is allowed to blend DNA of humans and animals and keep this hybrid alive up to 14 days, and this with the purpose to investigate the study of human bred organs for organ transplantation. There are both positive and negative elements to this evolution, but you can wonder who will eventually be the freak in the future: modified or unmodified humans. I want to start a dialogue about it with the Human Hybrids.

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Interview with David D. Gilbaugh (The Tectonic Method)

David D. Gilbaugh (The Tectonic Method)
Author: Ileana Surducan
Category: Techniques
Published in Ceramics Now Magazine Issue 2

The objects you create realistically mimic the texture and look of wood stumps, roots and branches. What is your connection with this natural element, and why did you choose to investigate it in ceramics?

Human emergence is the overarching theme of my sculptural work; as metaphors for that I use the aging tree as well as the natural land features of the earth. My life connection with trees and land extends from childhood when I remember exploring the woods and mountains of Colorado with my older brother and friends. Today I continue my fascination and exploration with the woods and mountains here in Southern California, where I live a short walk from the local foot trails of the San Gabriel Mountains. Ceramics is the most appropriate medium for me because clay seems to know what I want and interacts with me in a very agreeable way. The characteristics and behavior of clay seems to have a common goal with me as if it wants to behave in a way that yields a pleasing result. Clay naturally takes on the characteristics of wood and earth.

David D. Gilbaugh Ceramics - Interview for Ceramics Now Magazine

David D. Gilbaugh: Racemosa, 2011, sculpted teapot, 4”(W) x 11”(H) x 8”(D), hand-built slab, B-mix stoneware paper clay with grog, cone 10 reduction, black stain brushed in crevices, water washed iron and rutile stain. Permanent collection of the American Museum of Ceramic Arts.
View more works of David Gilbaugh


In order to make your work, you use a special process called the Tectonic Method. Tell us more about this technique. How did you develop it and what are its characteristics?

The Tectonic Method is a sculptural technique that utilizes the same tectonic forces that shape and texture the surface of the earth’s crust. These forces include stretching, compressing, and twisting. I begin with an idea of the sculptural object I am going to make and the pieces that will make it up. I then cut a piece of clay from the block that is roughly in the shape of what I want. I then use specialized wire hand tools to pre-texture what will be the visible surface. Next, I “naturalize” the pre-textured clay by tossing, slamming, or dropping the clay against the table top in a way that distorts the tooling of the pre-textured surface. The textured surface is not touched by the hand or tools from then on. The result is a dramatically textured form that is very natural looking. I call this a “tectonic form.” I then use specialized techniques to join together numerous tectonic forms to create a “Tectonic Sculpture” like “The Imaginist” or “The Bearded Ghoul.”

Early in my ceramic studies I began developing The Tectonic Method when I was laying them out on the table top to stretch them out. I could see that stretching clay gave it beautiful patterns of cracks and fissures. I soon discovered that cutting the surface of the clay before stretching it resulted in natural patterns that are easy to reproduce and incorporate into sculptures. The method developed very quickly from there. Since those early experiences stretching clay I have found numerous applications by other ceramists who used stretching as a texturing technique and even a throwing tool designed to apply patterns to vessels thrown on the wheel called the “Steve’s Tool.” A bit of research reveals that stretching clay to achieve decorative textures in clay is a very old tradition. What distinguishes the Tectonic Method from other stretching methods is that it includes specialized techniques for pre-texturing the clay, numerous tossing methods for naturalizing textures, and construction methods for building large clay sculptures that can be prone to slumping to the side during firing. The Tectonic Method is a start-to-finish method of forming and constructing both small and large clay “Tectonic Sculptures.”


Many of your objects are made from paperclay. What are the paperclay’s properties and why did you choose to work with it?

Paperclay is extremely versatile clay that works well with my purposes, especially the Tectonic Method. It remains workable even when it is dry. At bone dry it can be drilled, sawed, and even rewetted. Many ceramists try paperclay and find it difficult to use so they go back to what they were doing. This is unfortunate, and I believe it is because it is the change itself that is the real challenge, not the clay. Paperclay is not difficult to work with at all; it is only different and takes getting used to. Before I began throwing with porcelain I was told it was much more difficult than stoneware to throw. However, it is not more difficult, it is only different in its properties, so the artists must be able to adapt their skills and learn new ones to work with it successfully. I also find paperclay is more economical because it can be very easily reconstituted and go from dry to plastic overnight. If a piece is broken it can be reattached even if it is dry - instead of going in the trash, and the list goes on. However, the primary reason I use it is because of the dramatic textures it produces when it is “pre-textured” and stretched.

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COMMON GROUND: Craftsmanship in Ceramics, Jewellery, Basketry and Wood / Oxford Ceramics Gallery, Oxford, UK

COMMON GROUND exhibition, Oxford Ceramics Gallery

Craftsmanship in Ceramics, Jewellery, Basketry and Wood / Oxford Ceramics Gallery, Oxford, UK
December 1, 2013 - January 12, 2014

Oxford Ceramics is staging its first exhibition of contemporary applied art in December, with ceramics, wood, basketry and jewellery by some of the UK’s most distinguished artists. The exhibition celebrates the richness and diversity of their work, as well as a shared quality of fine craftsmanship. It will be on show at Oxford Ceramics Gallery until January 12, 2014.

Ceramics are central to the exhibition, with exciting new work by Carina Ciscato and Tanya Gomez. Carina Ciscato is one of the most individual voices in the world of contemporary ceramics. Her architectural vessel forms are constructed from different thrown components, each with its own rhythm and pattern of throwing rings. Her approach is largely intuitive, and her exciting, fluid forms evolve in the making.

Bold saturated colour is a trademark of Tanya Gomez’s cylindrical, flat-topped pots. Recently, however, she has introduced an altogether more restrained palette of celadon, white and coal black. The smooth openings of her coloured pieces have been replaced by a sharp, torn gash, adding an immediacy and edge to her work.

Wood as an art form has been enjoying something of a renaissance in recent years, and exhibitor Jim Partridge - renowned internationally for his serene, beautifully crafted work - is one of its most compelling exponents. His spherical bowls and open vessels are carved from oak, then scorched and polished to a rich, deep black or washed in matt white. The striking studio furniture made by Partridge and Liz Walmsley is also represented in the show - minimal yet monumental, with a quiet, strong presence.

Irish wood turner Liam Flynn makes smooth, rounded vessels in which the character and grain of the wood is integral to the design of the piece. He works mainly in Irish oak, often ebonised, with fine detailing: his bowls may be footed, fluted or double rimmed, with a gently undulating profile.

Wendy Ramshaw CBE is acknowledged as one of the greatest jewellery designers of our time, whose work is represented in some 70 public collections worldwide. She is best known for her signature ring sets, which she displays on elegant, tapered stands. These are, in her own words, “both a sculptural object and a collection of rings”, which can be worn singly or in different combinations to suit the wearer.

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Ceramics/Glass / Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art, Chicago

Ceramics/Glass exhibition, Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art Chicago

Ceramics/Glass / Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art, Chicago
December 6, 2013 - February 2, 2014

Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art in Chicago (UIMA) presents the exhibition Ceramics / Glass. This exhibit focuses on the medium of ceramic or glass in contemporary art – mediums that require high temperatures, special tools, kilns and specialized studios. UIMA has selected some distinctive personal styles from numerous glass / ceramics studios in Chicago and from artists working in national and international cities.

Brent Rogers, Alex Trommler and Aaron Wolf-Boze are from Chicago, showcasing art glass that was created in Ignite Glass Studios. Ignite Glass Studios (founded 2012) is already building reputation as a ‘hot’ art glass studio in the U.S.. Eric Bladholm is from Chicago Glassworks, a state of the art glass blowing facility and artist’s studio, custom built into a former iron foundry. He will present glass works combined with various metals. Nikki Renee Anderson will present multiple piece ceramic installation and Robert Pulley will exhibit one of his larger ceramic garden sculptures. Both artists are from Chicago Sculpture International and focus on the sculptural aspect of working with ceramics. Michael Janis, an ex-Chicago artist (now Co-Director of the Washington Glass School in Washington, DC) will present fused glass with glass powder imagery. Xavier Monsalvatje lives in Spain and works in traditional ceramic techniques which reflect industrial aesthetic designs reminiscent of the works of Mexican Muralists. Yurij Musatov and Anna Lypko, both from Ukraine, are two contemporary artists working in ceramics.

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Keisho-Ha - A New Materialism and the Yufuku Aesthetic / Yufuku Gallery, Tokyo

Keisho-Ha, A New Materialism and the Yufuku Aesthetic at Yufuku Gallery, Tokyo

Keisho-Ha - A New Materialism and the Yufuku Aesthetic / Yufuku Gallery, Tokyo
December 5-21, 2013

Contemporary Japanese art in the 21st century is heading in a new and unique direction.

Exhibited artists: Ken Mihara, Shigekazu Nagae, Atsushi Takagaki, Takahiro Yede, Naoki Takeyama, Niyoko Ikuta, Shunichi Yabe, Masaaki Yonemoto, Takafumi Asakura

Artists are using traditional techniques to create not craft, but objects of self-expression that are very much a type of sculpture that can change space itself. Such artists are pushing the boundaries of their respective mediums to new heights, using new techniques and materials that have not been used before.

Yet when one takes a step back and views today’s world of contemporary art, it is widely seen that concepts are allowed to run free, whilst the importance of technique and actual artistry are left behind and abandoned. Throughout art history, one can consistently observe an element of craftsmanship in fine art, from the statues of Greece to the frescoes of Italy, from the ink paintings of China to the folding painted screens of Japan. Even in expressionist and abstract painting, the works of Monet, Van Gogh, Picasso, Pollock, Rothko, Bacon and Freud were instilled with an element of technique as a priori. Craftsmanship was a given, but was not the sole emphasis. Technique was simply needed to realise the form of self-expression that they envisioned in their mind’s eye. Technique was not a starting point, but was a necessary means to an end. Likewise, I find that the artists affiliated with Yufuku are not technique-oriented artists, even though many of them are renowned for their technical prowess. Rather, for artists such as Shigekazu Nagae and Ken Mihara, the technique is simply a requirement needed for them to create the clay sculptures that they wish to manifest. Technique, again, is a given, and is only a means to an end.

If taken in this light, I find that the term craft or the Romanized Japanese word Kogei (synonymous with craft) is gravely inadequate in fully expressing what these contemporary Japanese artists are actually creating. Their works are not craft works, and they are not craft artists. Instead, they are emancipating their art from the fetters of language and from the limitations imposed by the element of categorisation. Such is the progressive moment in today’s Japan. I call them the Keisho-Ha (the School of Form), and can be also expressed as a New Materialism, wherein technique and material are chosen specifically to create sculptural works imbued with self-expression. This is, in a sense, a Return to Innocence, or a revival of artistry within art.

Today’s Japan is a world where craft does indeed exist vibrantly, and craft is very much alive and well in the likes of the Traditional Art Crafts Exhibition and the Living National Treasure System, along with potters and makers of mass-produced vessels for everyday life. But one cannot continue to categorise the makers of everyday utilitarian tea cups and bowls with the same terminology and language as artists wielding the very same techniques to create works that are worlds apart from these everyday objects. A different expressive process is taking place, and the Japanese are at a loss for properly contemplating and understanding this new movement. To lazily lump everything together as craft or kogei was simply out of convenience, an excuse for the Japanese to stop thinking about the subject that was so obviously unique to their culture, and is so vastly different from traditional Western connotations and demarcations of art and craft.

"The limits of our language are the limits of our world." Yet if such is true, then why not expand the boundaries of our language and properly express what is happening in our world today?
Such is the importance of language and ontology.

The artists assembled in this exhibition are a representation of this new movement in today’s Japan, a movement that Yufuku finds its lifework and reason for existence. This is art. And they are the Keisho-ha. Such is a true return to innocence, an emancipation of art for the sake of art.
Wahei Aoyama, Owner and Director of Yufuku Gallery

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Kerry Jameson: Unbounded / Marsden Woo Gallery, London

Kerry Jameson: Unbounded exhibition, Marsden Woo Gallery London

Kerry Jameson: Unbounded / Marsden Woo Gallery, London
November 7 - December 21, 2013

Kerry Jameson’s new sculptures have an emotional charge that is presented through a mix of narrative set pieces, tableaux and individual figures. Subjects include historical events and the exploits of folkloric and storybook characters. She derives inspiration from an equally eclectic range of sources, which include portrait paintings, the figures of British myth such as the Burryman and Wicker Man, the work of animator Ray Harryhausen, a fascination with the polychrome religious sculptures of 17th century Spain and the toy collections of the Bethnal Green Museum of Childhood. She explains: ‘A work starts with a thought or feeling, an undigested experience that needs to be worked through.’

She says: ‘I want to capture life in my work, a sense of movement, the feeling of something living… a constant state of transition.’ This ambition is experienced inthe faintly disquieting feeling that one of her figures might just spring into action. It is also apparent in the attention she gives to keeping the material qualities of a piece ‘alive’. Dissatisfied with the seeming permanence of fired clay, she adds layers and detail through the use of other materials to create nuanced effects. In addition to the ceramic base, components of a figure can be hessian, canvas, wool, fur, wood, paint, seeds, stones and sometimes hyper-real glass eyes.

Each of the works is either an imaginative exploration of a possibility or reflects on some human idiosyncrasy. In this world part-animal/part-human characters abound. Scenes from the past are also played out, as in her battle sequence based on Pickett’s Charge during the Battle of Gettysburg - representing a famous military blunder of the American Civil War - thereby reflecting on how misplaced human confidence can override logic and reason. With reference to both her subject matter and approach, Jameson admits to an interest in ‘things that aren’t quite right’ and to ‘things that happen on the boundaries’, rather than on firm, fully rational ground. The predominant aesthetic is that of the uncanny – where objects or ideas are recognised as familiar and at the same time experienced as deeply strange.
Words by Tessa Peters

Gallery hours: Tuesday to Friday, 11:00 - 18:00 and Saturday, 11:00 - 16:00. The nearest tube stations are Barbican, Farringdon or Old Street.

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Michal Fargo: Else, 2013, Porcelain, fired models technique, fired to cone 6 electric, 15x6 cm. Photo by Mel Bergman.

Michal Fargo: Else, 2013, Porcelain, fired mold technique, fired to cone 6 electric, Variable dimensions. Photos by Mel Bergman.

Michal Fargo: Else, 2012, Porcelain, fired mold technique, fired to cone 6 electric, 20x7 cm. Photos by Mel Bergman.

Michal Fargo: Else, 2012, Porcelain, fired models technique, fired to cone 6 electric, 30x18 cm. (white right), 24x21 cm. (white middle), 26x16 cm. (blue). Photo by Sasha Flit.

Michal Fargo: Else, 2012, Porcelain, fired models technique, fired to cone 6 electric, 30x18 cm. (white right), 24x21 cm. (white middle), 26x16 cm. (blue). Photo by Sasha Flit.

Michal Fargo: Else, 2013, Porcelain, fired mold technique, fired to cone 6 electric, 12x11 cm. Photo by Mel Bergman.

Michal Fargo: Else, 2012, Porcelain, metal ring, fired models technique, fired to cone 6 electric, 11x7 and 13x8 cm. Photo by Mel Bergman. The second work is sold to the collection of Holon’s Design Museum.