Humans have been making pottery objects for at least 27,000 thousand years—let that sink in for a moment—and the earliest ceramics were either made simply from clay or from a mixture of clay and other materials, like silica. They were then hardened and heated at relatively low temperatures in a fire. Now, flash forward an astounding number of millennia, and we can produce a variety of ceramic products, from bricks to tableware to nuclear fuel uranium oxide pellets.
Recently, we tracked down eight artists based right in our neighborhood who have been making some ceramic magic in their studios.
1. Megumi Yoshida: A Japanese designer now based in Greenpoint, Yoshida hand-makes her ceramics under the design brand Ashware Studios—which is located on Ash Street. She works primarily with slip casting, and creates lamps, vases, and tableware that toe the line between Japanese tradition and western modernism. Her ceramics are minimal but elegant, and look to bridge functional design and the self-sustained art object. You can follow her on Instagram: ashware_studio.
2. Romy Northover: Currently using the Japanese techniques of Kinuneri, Tebineri and Rokuro, Northover is traditionally trained in European ceramics and holds a BA in Fine Art from Goldsmiths, University of London. Although she runs her “No.” label out of her Greenpoint space, Northover has also spent time living and working in Hong Kong, Venice, and Berlin. Her ceramic work is sleek, precise, and a little bit funky—at first glance, some of her pieces look like they’re from the past—but they’re actually done in an “ancient future” style. You can follow her on Instagram: @no.___.
3. Rachel Farmer: One hot summer a few years ago, Farmer headed to Wyoming with a group of her pioneer figurines to explore a small portion of the original pioneer trail in Wyoming. In fact, Farmer’s ancestors were American pioneers who, like her figurines, pushed and pulled their way across the continent to settle out west. Her great-great-grandfather, James Bellamy Farmer, even kept a diary of his journey, which has survived over 100 years and has since been passed down to Farmer.
Farmer, who comes from Utah but now lives in Greenpoint, writes that she’s “long been captivated by stories of my ancestors–both my Mormon pioneer ancestors and my pioneering queer ancestors—” and thus produced this pretty haunting video to explore what we inherit from those who have come before us. “I see these pioneer figurines as ghosts who inhabit my world, but ghosts I can pick up and play with,” Farmer writes.
4. Michiko Shimada: Originally from Japan, Shimada attended Parsons School of Design and then worked as a tableware designer for a ceramic manufacturer in New York for a few years. In 2009, she decided to change course—drawn by the beauty of handcrafted ceramics—and opened her own Greenpoint studio, which specializes in slip cast ceramics. “In the world where so many things are mass produced and disposable,” she writes, “we feel the importance of introducing products that are made by hand in small batches.” Her ceramics, she writes, are meant to convey “simplicity, practicality and beauty with a just a touch of whimsy.” You can follow her on Instagram: @michiko_shimada.
5. Claire Typaldos: After graduating from Wesleyan University with a B.A. in Printmaking in 2007, Typaldos has had solo and group shows in Connecticut and New York, and recently completed artist residencies at Kala Art Institute in California and Anderson Ranch Arts Center in Colorado. Her ceramic work is fun and colorful (the color blue makes frequent appearances), and looks plant-friendly. Fun fact: Typlados regularly teaches terrarium design workshops in the neighborhood, and has worked at the Williamsburg garden center sprout home.
6. Youngna Park: Her sleek ceramics are not the only card Park has up her sleeve. After graduating from Cornell University, Park “spent four months working in the pastry kitchen at Chez Panisse, and lived in Bolivia for 6 months, photographing life in Cochabamba, a small city in the Andes,” she writes. Since then, she’s worked on digital campaigns, websites, and mobile apps, and produced feature-length dance film: Girl Walk // All Day (2011). You can follow her on Instagram: @youngnapark.
7. Christine Facella: Now creating under her Beetle and Flor brand, Facella previously spent years working as an illustrator and model maker for the Museum of Natural History in New York, “drawing turtle skulls and recreating prehistoric plants,” she writes. Now, she uses her skills of precision and patience to make skulls in porcelain. “Each skull consists of several molds, and can in total add up to 20+ mold pieces,” writes Facella. “Once cast and dry, the pieces get fired to over 2200 degrees before 14k gold luster is added on, and then fired once again.” For weary animal lovers reading this article, Facella adds that she’s an animal lover herself “and veteran vegetarian”—and that, more importantly, her pieces are “inspired and cast from expired friends.”
8. Brooke Winfrey: Self-described as someone who is “obsessed with creating with clay,” Winfrey writes that she tries to spend”as much time as possible in her Greenpoint studio trying to keep up with her constant desire to bring new pieces into the world.” To date, her passion has led Winfrey to make numerous bowls, mugs, vases, planters, and even speckled coffee pour overs. Her ceramics are serious yet playful and, if you look closely, full of small details that personalize each piece. You can follow her on Instagram: @btwceramics.