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Interview with ceramic artist Ken Eastman

Interview with Ken Eastman / Featured now
By Ileana Surducan
Published in Ceramics Now Magazine Issue 2

Ken Eastman’s work is on the cover of Ceramics Now Magazine Issue 2

Why did you choose the vessel as the central element of your art? Was there a transition from functional vessels to sculptural ones?

I have been working in ceramics continually since 1980. There have been periods when I have moved away from the vessel, but really it has been at the core of my work for most of the time since then. I do not make functional pots, but rather use the vessel as a subject - to give meaning and form to an expression. For a long time now I have realized that my overriding interest is making new coloured clay forms. This seems for me to be the essence of pottery- to make shapes which occupy and contain space and to decorate those shapes. By decorate, I mean to paint slip or glaze, to draw, to make image or line across the skin of the clay.

Ken Eastman Ceramics

Ken Eastman: For all we know, 2010, Stoneware with painted coloured slips and oxides, 43x31x37 cm.

Does your creative process start from a certain image in your mind, or do you seek for inspiration as you progress?

I have always made things - at first out of Lego and wood and for a long time now, using clay. Working on how to approach creating, so that I can go to work every day and explore shape and colour and move forwards, is always hard. The breadth of ceramic possibilities means that to make any progress it is necessary to build up some strict limitations. I use writing and drawing to approach the spirit of a piece of work, but I do not draw an ‘architectural plan’ of the piece that I am about to make: ideas that work in two dimensions are often different from those that are successful in three dimensions. Also, if I knew exactly what I was going to make before I started work in clay, there would be little room left for the play and invention that is an essential part of creative work. A large part of the reason for making is to see things which I have never seen before - to build something which I am excited about and wish to show and share with others. So I try not to plan anything except roughly how to proceed within my imposed limitations.

Tell us about the slab building technique that you use. What are the challenges that you encounter and the skills that it requires?

I roll out slabs of white stoneware clay by hand with a wooden rolling pin. Most of the rolling is bashing the clay flat and the rolling smoothens the material towards the end of the process. From the moment I start rolling out slabs I have to start making decisions - not what the piece will look like, which will in time become clear, but the details - how wide, how long, how thin or thick the slab, choices which determine shape. The objects which I make are clearly defined, they have drawn ground plans, smooth walls and clear edges, but this resolution emerges slowly. There are certain curves and curlings which a thin slab can manage better than a thicker one, but sometimes it’s the soft fatness of a rim or the weight of a piece which is more important.

Colour is an important part of your work. How do you see the interaction between colour and volume?

As soon as possible in the making process, I begin to make marks on the surface with coloured slips and oxides, whilst the clay is still quite wet. I paint on numerous layers of colour, firing the work repeatedly. I apply it in response to three dimensional form and it is in this way I paint the surface in order to explore and make sense of what I have made. I don’t know what colour I want a piece to be until I find it by working - building up layers of colour can often feel more like a stripping away to reveal what was meant. I am interested in the relationship between colour, the illusionistic space of a surface and actual space. This relationship is a complex one - as well as inhabiting the 2 dimensional space on a curving plane of clay, colour can, in a sense fill the actual 3 dimensional space of the vessel itself. Glen Brown in writing about my work said that colour becomes “volumetric, contained, like real space itself, by the vessel walls rather than merely carried on them: it becomes a fundamental content of the work rather than a superficial aspect of it.”

Today’s contemporary art puts a lot of emphasis on dynamics and interactivity. In this context, what is the merit of an art work that encourages contemplation as an aesthetic experience?

Being a static artwork does not exempt it from being dynamic or profound. Art work which is three dimensional demands that the viewer moves around the work and becomes involved in order to experience it and to contemplate it, which is of course a truly dynamic and interactive experience.

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  • Interview with Liliana Folta

    Interview with Liliana Folta / Spotlight
    By Ileana Surducan
    Published in Ceramics Now Magazine Issue 2

    What sparked your interest for ceramics?

    I was in college taking painting classes and I wanted to learn sculpture. One day I stopped by the sculpture lab to ask the instructor if I could audit the class. She agreed and handed me a piece of clay. I was amazed at the work of the students. A retired engineer was making intriguing ceramic sculptures. The forms were powerful and provocative. At that moment I thought of how versatile and expressive clay could be to express both powerful and delicate ideas. It was, for me, the medium of infinite possibilities.
    Immediately my brain had an explosion of ideas. I fell in love. I realized I could create 3D from some ideas of my paintings. In fact, I ended up sculpting so many pieces during the class that The Art Department awarded me a grant to do a whole semester and also the first solo show ever done by a student in the college.

    Liliana Folta Ceramics - An Abstract Poem of Freedom

    Liliana Folta: An Abstract Poem of Freedom (detail), 2009, on going traveling/interaction/installation.
    > View more works by Liliana Folta

    Besides ceramic art, you have also created paintings and murals in order to express your inner universe. How does working in three dimensions change your creative process? Do the processes differ a lot between these mediums?

    When I work in 3D, the process of creativity is more fluent, very spontaneous and I can communicate with feelings that I didn’t know I possessed until I felt them in my hands. I can transform them into something visual for others to see. It is a natural process, born of my subconscious. Back in my childhood, I recall helping my father in the garden and end up making objects with mud.

    In my paintings, it’s me: my surroundings, my past and present, something very personal and intimate expressed through a different tactile experience.
    As with murals, most of them have been collaborative works I’ve done with students at schools. The first one I made came out of the blue. A friend asked me for ideas on what to do with a wall where the tiles had been removed. I had the idea to teach the students about mural making and the importance of recycling material to make art. That’s how the first mural was born.

    You express yourself freely using clay. What are the main materials and ceramic techniques that you use?

    I like to experiment, so I have been using different kind of clay, such as stoneware, low and mid-fire with glazes and oxides. When I do mixed media, especially installations, I like to integrate other materials like metal, found objects and fresh water pearls. I use handmade techniques from slab, clay relief, and impressed texture to carving.


    Your past experience and your personal history seem to be an important source of inspiration for you. Tell us more about the symbolism of your work.

    Maybe that’s why I work in different mediums; I am much better expressing my self visually. Sometimes an image will stay with me and I am compelled to paint or sculpt it. Much later, I will realize that these images have a much deeper significance to me, one that transcends the visual. These images become symbols of social-political issues that are at the core of my world views and concerns. For example in the ceramic chains installation, the chains remain unconnected and loose, which symbolizes the right of freedom of the individual; regardless of religion, race, country, and gender. Freedom of expression is something that we, as humans should never have to give up.

    Many of your works have an intrinsic femininity. How does being a female artist influence the themes and the ideas you choose to represent?

    My themes and ideas begin with personal experiences, past, present, as well as everything that surrounds me: people, places and objects. Sometimes stories interact with different characters in different circumstances. I also like to create surreal landscapes for them.

    The white flowers I used in the “Warrior’s Series”, are images from my bank of memories of my father’s garden; he used to mix the flowers in the vegetable garden, which was my play yard during my childhood. “After Chaos”, a woman sleeps peacefully. She is able to find tranquility because she is surrounded by “white warrior flowers” - deceptively frail, and yet possessing all of the strength of memories, nature and the power of womanhood. These flowers guard her as she rests before facing whatever trials the day may bring to her.

    You come from Argentina, and you define yourself as a Latin American artist. How does your cultural heritage reflects in your creative experience?

    My Latin American roots inform my work. I was born in Argentina, my parents were immigrants of the World War II, and so my back ground tradition at home had a strong European flavor. Even so, I grew up proud for the country that welcomed my parents and the country they taught me to love. Moreover, I am also married to a Puerto Rican man, my son was born on the island too and we spent many years there. This is yet another passage in my life, where the colors and details are reflected more in my paintings than in my ceramics. So you see, my cultural heritage is a potpourri of different tradition and experiences, and everything is reflected in my art.

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  • 7 Ceramic Art Competitions and Fairs Where You Should Participate in 2014

    Ceramics Now comprised a list of 7 ceramic art competitions and fairs where artists can apply to participate in 2014. Be quick, the deadlines are approaching fast!


    1. INTERNATIONAL CERAMICS COMPETITION MINO, JAPAN

    The competition is the main event of the International Ceramics Festival Mino, which is held with the aim of supporting growth of the ceramics industry and the enhancement of culture through global exchange of ceramics design and culture. The first festival was held in 1986, and this will be the 10th edition. The last edition gathered 2777 entries from 57 countries. It is considered the largest event in the world entirely dedicated to contemporary ceramics. Read more

    Apply online / Download application procedures / Application form: Individual or Company

    Deadline: January 10, 2014 / Dates: September 12 - October 19, 2014
    Total prizes: ~ USD 130.000 / No entry fee
    Entry categories: Ceramics Design, Ceramic Arts


    2. INTERNATIONAL CERAMICS FAIR OLDENBURG, GERMANY

    Situated around the noble Schloss in the city-center of Oldenburg, the International Ceramic Fair which includes a ceramic market, presentation of professional prizes, special exhibits and artist showcases. The fair ensures that collectors and enthusiasts alike are offered an exquisite range of works from artistic creations to high-quality tableware. Based upon strict criteria a jury of professionals within the field chooses over a hundred workshops and ceramic artists to present their current work. This event attracts more than 60.000 visitors annually. Read more

    Download application procedures and terms / Application form

    Deadline: January 11, 2014 / Dates: August 2-3, 2014
    Entry fee: EUR 240 (includes 3x3 meters stand)


    3. CLAY? V EXHIBITION, UNITED STATES

    The fifth installment of Kirkland Arts Center’s biennial contemporary ceramics exhibition, Clay? V, is juried by University of Washington, School of Art Professors Doug Jeck, Jamie Walker, and Akio Takamori. Clay? V explores the versatility of clay as a medium of artistic expression. Showcasing a range of sizes, scales, subject matter, and techniques, the artwork of this exhibition is both a testament to the enduring legacy of clay and future of the field.

    Read more / Apply online

    Deadline: January 17, 2014 / Dates: March 21 - May 17, 2014
    Entry fee: USD 25


    4. WESTERWALD PRIZE 2014 - EUROPEAN CERAMICS, GERMANY
    Competition open only to European citizens.

    The Westerwald Prize was first awarded in 1973 to present outstanding ceramic art and craft work in the framework of a competition and exhibition at the Keramikmuseum Westerwald (KMW). This remains a priority of the administration of the Westerwald region for the 13th Westerwald Prize in 2014. A further aim is to promote the dialogue between ceramics and art in the region and to support cultural exchange within Europe.

    Download application procedures and form

    Deadline: January 19, 2014 / Dates: September 26, 2014 - February 1, 2015
    Total prizes: EUR 24.000 / No entry fee
    Entry categories: Saltglaze (stoneware and porcelain), Design (serially produced ware), Vessel / Form / Decor, Sculpture / Installation, Talent Award (below 35 years old)


    5. INTERNATIONAL BIENNIAL OF VALLAURIS, FRANCE
    Competition open only to European Union citizens.

    Since 1966 the Town of Vallauris Golfe-Juan has organised a biennial with the aim of promoting and rewarding artistic creation in the field of ceramics. For this edition, it has been decided to use the expression ‘Contemporary Creation and Ceramic’ to stress its intention of making ceramic creation part of the world of contemporary art. The competition is intended to encourage and publicise European talents using the reputation of Vallauris, the town of ceramics, as a springboard facilitating their recognition around the world.

    Apply online / Download application procedures / Application form

    Deadline: December 30, 2013 / Dates: July - November 2014
    Total prizes: EUR 25.000 / No entry fee
    Note: You first have to apply online, then to send the required documents by mail (post).

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  • Yô Akiyama exhibition / ARTCOURT Gallery, Osaka, Japan

    Yo Akiyama exhibition, ARTCOURT Gallery Osaka

    Yô Akiyama exhibition / ARTCOURT Gallery, Osaka, Japan
    December 3, 2013 - January 25, 2014

    Yo Akiyama established his signature style of sculptural ceramic creation while still in school. His creative mind lies beneath the awareness by facing the nature and energy of clay, expressed through large scale works. We are excited to introduce Akiyama’s new works in this exhibition showcasing the roots, that is the artery of Akiyama’s powerful creation as well as Akiyama’s now as his next step in his career.

    Akiyama’s early works were mysterious objects created through black pottery. His student works done in black pottery show influences from primitivism that he was interested in, modern sculptors such as Brâncuşi and Arp, and his professor Kazuo Yagi, but yet to discover his own expression or concept through clay. Those early pieces are gone; however, Akiyama recalls that he can see the presence of Akiyama that has lead to himself now. This discovery lead him to the new set of works, in which the artist re-creates his early black pottery works with his current skillsets and by revisiting his own 1970s. Akiyama titled this new challenge of regenerating or redeveloping his roots “Incubation” (or Houran no Katachi in Japanese) and introduces about 10 new pieces in this exhibition.

    Akiyama developed several series of works that express the ever-changing shape of earth with unique creative challenges such as nature vs. human, birth vs. decay, internal vs. external by fusing the phenomenon of soil and thoughts on creation. The series titled “Metavoid,” which began in 2003, puts focus on an enclosed space where objects intervene and how we perceive such space. Akiyama would make a large bowl on a potter’s wheel, then reverse its inside and outside. This act brings a change in spatial relation of the bowl and the space it holds within (the void). The artist would then place this bowl in an even larger vessel – an exhibition space, the other void. Akiyama uses clay as a vehicle to explore physical shapes to his pursuit ranging from multi-layered texture in motion to human perception of space. We are introducing 5 new large scale pieces ranging from 100 cm to 180 cm from the series “Metavoid.”

    Akiyama began making a series of slabs with prints of spider webs as his side work around 1993 where the artist began to depart from his signature black pottery works. The series captured the natural beauty of spider webs Akiyama found almost every morning around his home from early summer to fall. About 50 creations from this series will gather in our gallery for public viewing for the first time. They can be seen as an organic map that connects the roots and current of Akiyama’s creation.

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  • HYPERCLAY: Contemporary Ceramics / Gladstone Regional Art Gallery & Museum, Gladstone, Australia

    Roderick Bamford at HYPERCLAY: Contemporary Ceramics exhibition, Gladstone Regional Art Gallery Museum

    HYPERCLAY: Contemporary Ceramics / Gladstone Regional Art Gallery & Museum, Gladstone, Australia
    December 13, 2013 - March 2014, 2014

    RoHYPERCLAY: Contemporary Ceramics investigates the field of ceramics, focusing on new attitudes, techniques and technologies that are being embraced by artists in the 21st century. Walter Auer, Roderick Bamford, Stephen Bird, Jacqueline Clayton, Andrea Hylands, Addison Marshall, Pip McManus and Paul Wood all ignite the imagination with the potential of clay through their work. As the prefix ‘hyper’ suggests, HYPERCLAY presents clay-based work where the medium has been amplified, extended and intensified to produce work that will delight, provoke and surprise. New technologies, the process of making, and the re-purposing of materials to create new forms are the delicate threads that bind the works in HYPERCLAY together.

    A collection of 35 short videos have been produced to accompany the work in HYPERCLAY. These include interviews with the artists, curators, academics, collectors, gallerists and students. All videos are available to view through iPads in the exhibition space, offering the viewer different perspectives on the works as well as deeper, richer connections to the artists.

    Roderick Bamford explores the process of additive fabrication, creating a series of ceramic sculptures using a modified rapid prototyping printer. Bamford sourced the parts for his 3D printer online, gradually building a machine that could print with clay. The result is a device that affords Bamford an expanded making process that incorporates both analogue and digital techniques.

    Stephen Bird, better known for his satirical figurative ceramics, presents two works that also play at the intersection of the digital and the handmade. Wanting to reveal the sequence of events that takes place when transforming raw clay into a finished sculpture, Bird spent several intensive weeks in his studio creating the stop-frame clay animation What are you laughing at?. The work is a re-telling of the Creation Story through the lens of the post-industrial world. It also documents Bird’s making process, capturing it as performance. Similarly, I Just Don’t Believe in Ceramics elevates ceramic surface decoration from static and permanent to evolving virtual design.

    New Warriors by Andrea Hylands captures the performance of material itself. Her fragile forms are the product of bone china slip poured into a mould and then removed at varying durations. This process is a balance between the spontaneity of movement and material, and the precision of the artists’ hand.

    Ceramicist Walter Auer is interested in the transformation and preservation of objects through a petrifaction process that he has been experimenting with for nearly 10 years. Auer soaks discarded soft toys in watered-down clay (terra sigillata) for weeks – even months - before submitting them to a grueling firing process.

    Similarly, Pip McManus is interested in transformation. Combining clay, video, sand and water, McManus has created a video work entitled Watershed 2 that engages with ideas of permanence and organic forms. In Watershed, the ancient medium of clay is effortlessly in conversation with the contemporary medium of video.

    Paul Wood scours op shops, thrift stores and neighbourhood gardening centres for pre-loved ceramic objects that he then re-fires, melts and slumps to create dramatic new sculptures. For Guardians of a Goddess Wood has crafted an ode to the ornamental water features that proudly sat in the neighborhood gardens of his childhood.

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  • » 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.

  • » Ceramic art competitions, biennales, festivals and fairs in 2014

    View the list of international contemporary ceramics competitions, biennales, contests, ceramic festivals and fairs recommended by Ceramics Now in 2014


  • 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, 2013, Porcelain, fired models technique, fired to cone 6 electric (Bronze Winner of the China Kaolin Prize 2013, part of Jingdezhen’s Ceramic Museum’s collection), 30x17 cm. Photo 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.

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