World Pottery

Slab Pottery Artists: Crafting Mastery from Clay

Slab pottery is a unique form of ceramic art that involves rolling out clay into flat pieces, or ‘slabs’, and then shaping them into various forms. This technique allows for a great deal of creativity and has been utilized by countless artists to create stunning pieces of work.

This article will explore the work and artistic styles of eleven notable slab pottery artists who have left a lasting impact.

Slab Pottery Artists

Peter Voulkos (1924-2002)

Born in 1924, Peter Voulkos was an American artist of Greek descent who significantly revolutionized ceramic arts in the 20th century. He began his career as a traditional potter but soon started experimenting with abstract expressionist styles. Voulkos was known for his innovative use of the slab technique in creating large-scale, sculptural ceramics that blurred the line between pottery and sculpture. His works are characterized by their raw, expressive energy and often feature bold, slashed surfaces and dramatic cut-outs.

Ruth Duckworth (1919-2009)

Ruth Duckworth was a British-born artist who became prominent in American ceramics. She was known for her modernist sculptures made from porcelain, stoneware, and bronze. Duckworth’s slab pottery often exhibited a delicate balance between organic forms and geometric structures. Her murals, especially, demonstrated her mastery of the slab technique, with intricately carved details and fluid shapes seamlessly integrated into flat panels.

Beatrice Wood (1893-1998)

Also known as the “Mama of Dada,” Beatrice Wood was an American artist and studio potter with a colorful career spanning over seven decades. Wood’s initial exposure to pottery was through slab-built earthenware pots during her time in France. Her playful and experimental approach to slab pottery resulted in whimsical pieces often adorned with rich, lustrous glazes. Her pieces, characterized by their vibrant colors and eclectic aesthetic, reflect her belief that art should bring joy to people’s lives.

Lisa Naples

Lisa Naples is a contemporary ceramic artist who has worked with clay for over 30 years. Naples is renowned for her narrative pottery pieces that feature animals and human figures. Her work, primarily created using the slab technique, showcases a unique blend of form and storytelling. Each piece is meticulously crafted, with careful attention given to the smallest of details, whether it’s the expression on a figure’s face or the texture of an animal’s fur.

Shoji Hamada (1894-1978)

Shoji Hamada was a Japanese potter who played a key role in the Mingei (folk craft) movement in the 20th century. Though he was skilled in various pottery techniques, his slab-built pieces demonstrated a distinct aesthetic that combined traditional Japanese, English, and Korean influences. His pieces were often simplistic and functional, reflecting his belief in the beauty of everyday objects.

Liz Zlot Summerfield (Active since 1990s)

Liz Zlot Summerfield has been active in the field of ceramics since the late 1990s. Known for her colorful, functional pottery, Summerfield uses the slab construction method to create various pieces. Her works, from plates and bowls to teapots and vases, are characterized by their vibrant colors, patterned surfaces, and playful exploration of form and functionality.

Sandy Pierantozzi (Active since 1980s)

Sandy Pierantozzi has been creating ceramics since the 1980s. Based in Philadelphia, Pierantozzi uses the slab technique to craft functional and decorative pieces. Her work is noted for its intricate surface designs and whimsical forms. Many of her pieces incorporate narrative or symbolic elements, contributing to their distinctive, story-telling nature.

Bruce Cochrane (Active since 1970s)

Canadian artist Bruce Cochrane has been producing exquisite pottery since the 1970s. A master of slab-built pottery, Cochrane creates functional and decorative stoneware, often of substantial size. His work is recognized for its architectural forms, complex surface treatments, and overall aesthetic that speak to a deep respect for the craft of pottery.

Sarah Jaeger (Active since 1980s)

Montana-based artist Sarah Jaeger has been creating functional pottery since the 1980s. She is known for her porcelain pieces that blend the slab and throwing techniques. Jaeger’s work often features delicate, intricate surfaces with rich glazes, and her pieces are as much a pleasure to use as they are to look at.

Karen Karnes (1925-2016)

Karen Karnes was an influential figure in the studio pottery movement of the mid-20th century. Active from the 1950s until she died in 2016, Karnes is known for her stoneware pottery that skillfully combines slab building and wheel throwing techniques. Her work ranges from functional cookware to more sculptural pieces, all characterized by their organic forms, earthy glazes, and deep, serene beauty.

Conclusion

These artists, with their unique approaches to slab pottery, have contributed significantly to the evolution of ceramic arts. Their work has enriched the pottery field and expanded the boundaries of what is possible with clay. They remind us that with creativity and skill, even the most basic techniques, like slab building, can be transformed into extraordinary works of art.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Who are some of the most famous slab pottery artists?

Some well-known slab pottery artists include Peter Voulkos, Ruth Duckworth, Shoji Hamada, Liz Zlot Summerfield, Sandy Pierantozzi, Bruce Cochrane, Sarah Jaeger, and Karen Karnes.

What is slab pottery?

Slab pottery is a ceramic construction method where an artist rolls clay into flat, even pieces called slabs, and then shapes these slabs into objects. This technique can create various forms, from functional ware to sculptural pieces.

Can beginners try slab pottery?

Absolutely. While it may take some time to master, slab construction is a versatile technique that beginners can try. Many beginner-level pottery classes include lessons on slab construction.

Where can I see slab pottery artworks?

Slab pottery artworks are often showcased in galleries, museums, and art festivals. They can also be found in online galleries or social media platforms where artists share their work. Additionally, many artists sell their work through websites or craft marketplaces.

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