Clay artists come in lots of different guises. It is truly a huge and diverse area and you could dedicate a whole website just to this subject alone.
As I mention on the Clay Art page, if you try to define general categories of artists who work with clay you can come up with all sorts of categories and definitions - the list almost endless.
There are categories such as ‘fine art ceramicists’, 'studio potters', ‘industrial ceramics artists’, ‘decorative ceramics artists’ or 'folk art potters' etc etc. Sometimes there is a blurring between the delineations, which adds to the rich tapestry.
For example, a fine artist like Picasso’s working in the Madoura pottery is a hard one to define.
He gave them permission to produce product ranges from his ceramic doodlings (for no fee or commission).
Are the resultant ceramic pieces fine art or decorative art or industrial art? Whatever they are, they are valuable and collectible.
Fragile but long-lived
There seems to be a special significance placed on the value of ceramic art in all its guises whether it is a Ming vase or a Picasso plate.
In part I think this is to do with a piece of ceramic art's fragility - you have to take care not to damage it. This treating with kid gloves is contrasted with the incredible durability of ceramics as a medium. There are ceramic sculptures 30,000 years old that look as if they were fired yesterday.
Personally, my favourite clay artist is UK sculptor Paul Smith. He is not a studio potter, but produces one off clay art pieces.
They are based on European folk tales as old as the hills and he uses an art form (ceramics) which is older than the hills.
I find them stunning, amusing, simple, telling and beautiful.
They remind me of a naive style of folk art which has a pool of wisdom lying beneath its apparent simplicity.
Find out more at his website
Continue reading about more of my favourite clay artists below.
I have mentioned before Sid Dickens' inspired memory blocks. They are small tablets of clay which can be hung on the wall in groups or singly. They are rather cool chic.
I love them and I am envious that he thought of them and had the ability to not only design and craft them so superbly, but also to market them so successfully. Good on you Sid!
Even more interestingly, until the age of 28 he was a commercial fisherman. Belatedly he went to art college. Quickly after graduating, he became a fine artist, one of the front runners back in the 80’s working with found objects like drift wood and whale bone. I guess those early pieces have a real value to them now. I don't know Sid personally, but I can see that he's my kind of artist.
memory block pictures reproduced with kind permission of
A clay artist working at the other end of the scale in terms of scale, is Bruce Howdell. How does a 60 foot wall of clay sound to you?
Intimidating? Not to Bruce.
Bruce Howdell obviously doesn't get intimidated that easy. I am beginning to come to the conclusion that this attribute of fearlessness is a common denominator amongst clay artists.
You can see Bruce dwarfed by his huge clay sculpture in the photo.
Check out his website
The three contemporary clay artists mentioned on this page, despite being very different have one thing in common. They are not studio potters.
Art potters are a breed apart.
Even within their ranks, however, there are artists so different, and with such different value systems, they would gladly denounce each others work as loudly as possible. I told you this was a big subject!
Go to Art Pottery for more about this rather intense story.
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or alternatively back to clay art