Johnson Tsang (previously) continues to create spectacularly emotive ceramic sculptures of the human face. The Hong Kong-based artist’s latest series, Lucid Dream II, features surreal contortions that squish, wring, melt, and stretch. Titles like “Remembrance,” “Extrication,” and “Unveiled” suggest an exploration of the liminal space between the conscious and subconscious, in addition to the self and other. Tsang uses plain, unglazed clay, eschewing typical lifelike details such as color, hair, and apparel, to focus the viewer’s attention on the universally-relatable expressions of each of his imagined subjects. You can see more of the sculptor’s completed and in-progress work on Instagram and Facebook.
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After years of work as a ceramic artist, Kenny Sing of Turn Studio has created a series of shallow vessels which double as zoetrope animations when spun. His project, Trepō, transfers digital patterns onto the one-of-a-kind curves of his ceramic platters. The patterns are then either precisely cut from or glazed onto their surface. These elements act as static designs until they are activated by a pottery wheel. As the wheel turns, the patterns come to life: cubes, triangles, and rectangles appear to tumble into the center of the vessel. You can view the process for creating one of the ceramic vessels in the video below, and view more works on Turn Studio’s website, Instagram, and Vimeo. (via Colossal Submissions)
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Sabri Ben-Achour uses natural forces to produce crystal growths and other organic additions to his handmade ceramic vessels through his own unique method of electroforming. By using charged electrodes he is able to redeposit metal atoms from scrap metal onto his ceramic works in the form of bright blue crystal formations reminiscent of coral. These creations nearly cover the inside of each piece, becoming more detailed as they grow along the sculptures’ fissures and rims.
Through research Ben-Achour has found ways to make these fragile structures more durable for his sculptural works, and can now influence their shape during the electroforming process. You can view more of his transformed ceramic vessels on Instagram.
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Artist Heesoo Lee (previously) uses multi-layered techniques to form intricate trees, complete with leaves and branches, that seem to grow out of her functional ceramic vessels. Lee’s careful use of color establishes a seasonal mood in each of her works, some evoking the warm tones and fallen leaves of autumn, while others capture the barren beauty of winter. Each woodland scene is drawn from Lee’s imagination. The artist shares that she happened upon her current style of work by chance: her background is as a painter, and she used clay more as a smooth canvas until one day she was working on a tight deadline and was attempting to repair a broken pot, which inspired her to build three-dimensionally.
Lee explains that she uses translucent porcelain because its “beautiful clarity and color and is the perfect canvas for the bright underglaze and glazes I use.” The artist begins by forming each tree individually, starting with the closest and largest trees as she builds perspective by filling in the background with progressively smaller trunks, each of which is individually formed with a clay coil. Next, for her non-wintry pieces, each leaf is individually formed and applied to create the dense foliage that further increases the sense of depth on the surface of her ceramics. After an initial firing, Lee applies colored details using painted underglaze, which must be applied without overlapping different glazes to prevent discoloration after firing. Lastly, she chooses from a range of finishing glazes, selected depending on the desired effect, like an icy blue vernal pool or clearly defined leaves.
Lee shares that she first came to the United States, looking for freedom and adventure and with little knowledge of English, first living in Berkeley, California. She started re-exploring ceramics outside of the strictures of traditional Korean ceramics, rediscovering her love of the tactile medium after studying painting in college. Lee has been a working artist alongside her partner, a fellow ceramic artist for many years, and cites her time in residence at the Archie Bray Foundation as a seminal experience:
My work, mostly in medium-range porcelain, expanded beyond painted surfaces, my mainstay for many years. I pushed my work beyond the motifs I had been using for many years–flowers, mostly–and built larger than I had before. I was inspired by my children, the landscape of the places where I lived, and my own childhood in Korea, and reflected these themes in my work. I found that working in a place like the Bray, surrounded by other artists who created a supportive, inviting, and welcoming community, gave me the freedom to grow as an artist.
Lee lives and works in Helena, Montana, where she has a home studio and kiln. You can see more of Lee’s in-progress and finished work on Instagram, and she also keeps her Etsy shop updated with new pieces available for purchase.
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U.K.-based ceramic artist Anna Whitehouse set a goal on January 1, 2018 to create a new bottle each day for 100 days. By limiting herself to a single form, Whitehouse was able to stretch her creativity to formulate new designs previously unexplored in her practice. Each white ceramic bottle was uniformly shaped, but the designs she created on the surface differed each day. Some bottles were punctured with tiny repetitive holes, while others were covered in leaf-like applications or floral motifs.
“I tried pressing and scraping any tool I could get my hands on into the clay,” Whitehouse explains. “From my standard clay tools to pen lids, tweezers, scissors, and even a string of beads! I also started making my own tools from bits of broken pen, wire, and aluminum to create particular marks.”
The artist compares the 100-day-long exercise to journaling or filling a sketchbook, as each new object was like a brand new sketch that could be learned from for the next day. “I’ve kept the work unglazed, like white pages from a sketchbook, highlighting the mark making through the contrast created by shadows.”
After the completion of her project Whitehouse created a “clay calendar” which you can visit on her website. The interactive portfolio outlines each bottle she made from January 1 to April 10, 2018, and includes her unique titles which are based on something that happened during the day they were made. You can see further iterations of her bottles and clay creations on her Instagram. (via Colossal Submissions)
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Ceramicist William Kidd has been working for over 25 years using a combination of wheel throwing and hand building to form his imaginative organic specimens. The Florida-based artist shares in a statement on his website that he draws inspiration from the natural world: “my work is not an imitation of any real living thing, but rather life forms that might exist in some other worldly place.” Kidd uses low-fire red earthenware finished with oxide stains, underglazes, and crawl glaze to form sculptural seeds, fruits, and flowers. Spikes and bulges protrude from beneath the surfaces of the brightly colored and richly textured pieces, with stalks and flowers bursting through, indicating a forthcoming metamorphosis. Kidd frequently shows his work at art festivals and fairs, especially in Florida. You can keep up with his show itinerary on his website and Instagram.
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The latest installation by ceramicist and ocean advocate Courtney Mattison (previously) is Confluence (Our Changing Seas V), a porcelain coral arrangement produced for the US Embassy in Jakarta, Indonesia. The site-specific work features a vibrant cluster of coral structures at its center which turn stark white the further they are placed from the installation’s core. This shifting gradient references the rapid devastation caused to reefs as temperature levels rise and force corals to lose their colorful algae.
This installation is a celebration of Indonesia’s coral reefs, while also pinpointing the human-caused damage that infects the vibrant systems. “Corals, anemones, sponges and other reef-dwelling invertebrates coalesce into a cyclone-like spiral with colorful healthy corals at the eye of the storm, their tentacles and branches dancing in the current,” explains Mattison. “Toward the edges and tail of the swirling constellation, corals sicken and bleach, exposing their sterile white skeletons—a specter of what could be lost from climate change. Yet at its heart the reef remains healthy, resilient and harmonious.”
Indonesia is located at the heart of what is called the “Coral Triangle” or “Amazon of the Sea.” This environment is host to more invertebrate species than can be found anywhere else on the planet, in addition to thousands of species of fish which thrive in the rich ecosystem. Mattison hopes that her handmade constructions of the Coral Triangle’s diverse specimens produces an excitement in viewers while sparking an interest to protect the delicate balance found in Indonesia’s coral systems.
Mattison is exhibiting another recent installation titled Afterglow (Our Changing Seas VI) in the group show Endangered Species: Artists on the Frontline of Biodiversity, curated by Barbara Matilsky, at the Whatcom Museum in Bellingham, Washington through January 6, 2019. Mattison will travel to Bali at the end of October to unveil a 60-foot-long community-based coral installation she designed for the Coral Triangle Center in Sanur, Bali titled Semesta Terumbu Karang—Coral Universe. The work features over 2000 elements sculpted by a team of over 300 volunteers, coral reef conservationists, and Balinese artisans. You can see further conservation-based projects by Mattison on her website and Instagram.
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