Ceramic art has a rich history that dates back to 24,000 BCE. This ancient art form has since evolved over centuries, from utilitarian utensils to decorative pieces. In today’s world, ceramic artists continue to push the boundaries of the medium. Discover our ultimate guide to ceramic artists: from those upholding age-old techniques with a twist to those unearthing radical ways to push clay to its limit. Ceramics can be sculpted, wheel-thrown, or hand-built with the intention of non-representationally exploring form and texture. Artists can also choose to glaze their creations or leave them unglazed. The latter is known as naked pottery, and it enables the viewer to see the clay’s natural state and structure.
American artist Peter Voulkos is credited with developing studio ceramics in the United States, and his large-scale abstract sculptures are widely recognized. When glazed, ceramics are often decorated with intricate patterns and shapes. For example, Mexican ceramicist Jorge López’s figurative works are often reminiscent of the Aztec culture. Alternatively, Chilean artist Fernando Casasempere blends clay with industrial materials like copper mining waste, which gives his work a more abstract aesthetic that connects to the Land Art movement. Many ceramics are crafted as vessels or containers for spirituality, ritual and shared experiences. American artist Theaster Gates, who trained as a potter and maintains an affinity with clay, uses ceramics to delve into topics of race, territory and the history of objects. His monumental installation ‘Black Vessel’ at Gagosian New York last year embodied this approach, with ceramic vessels acting as containers for a variety of cultural and social rituals.
In addition to using ceramics as a vessel for the development of ideas, artists can also use this material as an expression of their unique personalities and perspectives. British artist Grayson Perry, for instance, employs ceramics to make incisive statements about contemporary society. His sgraffito surfaces are loaded with autobiographical references and unflinching societal observations. Whether molded, hand-built, glazed or naked, ceramics are a versatile medium for creating works of art that engage with universal themes of beauty, ritual, and meaning. This versatility has allowed ceramics to become a popular choice for artists across genres.
The International Academy of Ceramics (IAC) hosts a number of annual conferences and symposiums that bring together scholars, artists, and professionals to discuss the latest developments in ceramics. The organization also awards prizes and grants to individuals that contribute to the advancement of the field. This helps to promote ceramics as a viable and exciting medium for artistic expression, and allows the organization to foster a sense of community amongst its members. This is a vital component for the success of ceramics as an artistic and scientific field of study.