Akio Takamori's Cross-Cultural Gaze

Keramikmuseum Westerwald
German Collection of Historical and Contemporary Ceramics
Lindenstraße 13
D - 56203 Höhr-Grenzhausen, Germany

Weighted with sorrow, a diminutive ceramic figure of the German Chancellor Willy Brandt kneels on a plinth, hands stacked and head tilted down. His eyes are swollen, and furrowed frown lines are etched with creases, echoing in the graphic folds on his coat. Referencing a significant moment in 1970 when Brandt knelt before a memorial honoring the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising against the Nazis, the exhibition marks the first time it has been shown in Germany.

Backdropping the woeful Brandt are three Sumi-ink paintings depicting Japanese company bosses amidst a public apology. Although the works from the Apologies/Remorse series are the first to greet visitors, ironically, they were the last pieces that ceramicist Akio Takamori produced before surrendering to cancer in 2017. 

His final works are a departure from his customary whimsical tone. For decades, Takamori—with his incisive, child-like curious eye and sociologic lens—studied, documented, and captured human behavior, transmuting their essence and eccentricities into puffy stoneware forms. 

His charming figures are standing, lying, and squatting on a low and long perpendicular plinth, which divides the negative space of the gallery with bursts of hues, lively lines, and sensuous undulating forms. A woman, draped in a watery cadmium gown with blushed rouge cheeks, reclines on the floor with her heavy head resting on her hand. Another woman, adorned in a robe with blue stripes accentuating her curves, peacefully sleeps with her naked infant tenderly nestled on her breast. Meanwhile, a drifting man, with expressive eyes, clad only in a white tank top and briefs, carries a child on his back. Despite portraying routine scenes, the peculiar blend of awkwardness and sensuality introduce a fresh and uplifting perspective to these everyday acts.

Presenting thirty-nine ceramic sculptures spanning various periods of the artist’s career, the exhibition titled Rücksicht, which is dually defined as “consideration” and “retrospective,” encapsulate Takamori’s inquisitive imagination and examination of human behavior, psychology, and nature.

“When you consider something, you try to understand it.” Dr. Nele van Wieringen, director of the museum and curator of the show explains, “You try to go to the background and go deeper than just surface. You have to bring in a lot of different variables to get a fuller understanding.”

It wasn’t until Takamori, born in Nobeoka, Miyazaki in 1950, moved to the United States that he began to delve deeply into expressions of the human form. During a two-year apprenticeship at Koishiwara Pottery in Japan, where Takamori threw two hundred cups a day, acclaimed American ceramist Ken Ferguson visited the studio, and the two instantly formed a bond. Subsequently, Takamori migrated to Kansas City in 1974, where he studied ceramics under Ferguson's guidance at the Kansas City Art Institute.

Upon arriving in the West, he experienced culture shock, finding himself as a minority in a foreign land. This environmental shift catalyzed a self-conscious examination of the tensions between cultural and racial identities. He began considering how Asians were perceived and how he, in turn, appeared to Westerners. This introspection prompted his pursuit of creating clay figures sculpted from his memories of people in Japan and their collective observable idiosyncrasies as exemplified by the woman in a deep squat with her soles flat on the floor facing forward (a pose often associated with Asian mannerisms and stereotypes).

Takamori also explored the dichotomy between the East and West, drawing inspiration from both traditional Japanese and European masters. Against stoneware mountain landscapes with billowing clouds, a Japanese woman carrying a child on her back faces a white, blonde woman in a royal blue dress. Though both women stand in the same position with hands held in front, they emit distinctly different energies. The curation explores the complexity of identity and reveals how racial and cultural distinctions subtly shape the viewer's perception and interpretation of their narratives.

Takamori's personal life intersected with this dichotomy, as he was married to a Swedish woman—a dynamic reflected in his Interracial Couples series. In these sculptures, nude couples of diverse ethnicities intimately embrace and hold each other, composing a singular mass with shared brushstrokes and drips.

Rather than the repetitive task of throwing hundreds of small cups, as he did during his apprenticeship, Takamori dedicated his days to obsessively sculpting hand-built figures. This shift in focus ultimately led to the development of his distinctive and singular style.

Akio Takamori's aesthetic features undulating, soft, and dense figures characterized by hyperbolized hands and feet, as well as supple thighs and arms, which dramatize the characters with Rubenesque abstractions. The exaggerated physiognomy is further emphasized by calligraphic strokes of lines, creases, contours, and stripes that meander throughout the frame, bringing volume to the form. His works possess a distinctly Japanese sensibility reminiscent of ukiyo-e prints, yet they also draw inspiration from Greek Kouros and Renaissance sculptures. The soupçon splashes of rose-stained cheeks, knuckles, and knees infuse warmth and vitality into his figures, evoking a sense of pulsating life within their voluptuous bodies.

Youthful energy emanates from Takamori’s sculptures, accentuated by his inclusion and admiration for children. Running along the back wall of the gallery, a series of painted children sheltered in cocoon-shaped porcelain plates serve as an homage to the innocence and promise they embody.

“Children, especially infants, catch my attention. My heart grows tender with the sight of innocence and novice. I wonder what this brilliant, totally observant mind is looking at, thinking, experiencing, and taking in from our current world.” - Akio Takamori (CNAA)

This remarkable gathering of Takamori’s personal yet universal expressions serves as a psychological realm for contemplating humanity in an increasingly polarized world–a poignant reminder of the transient nature of time. Although Takamori is no longer with us, his subtle evocations of powerful emotions will continue to resonate, prompting viewers to reflect on the enduring beauty in human interactions, relationships, and expressions.


Visit Keramikmuseum Westerwald at Lindenstraße 13 D - 56203 Höhr-Grenzhausen, or explore and learn more about the exhibition "Rücksicht" and Akio Takamori's works online at Keramikmuseum Westerwald.

UPCOMING EXHIBITION AT KERAMIKMUSEUM WESTERWALD

40 years Gruppe ´83. Identities

April 7- June 23, 2024

40 years ago, the West German members of the Académie Internationale de la Céramique (AIC) joined forces to strengthen ceramics as an independent art form in Germany and to promote young talent. However, a unified artistic position was never their goal. Nevertheless, shared values are visible that create a common framework. United, they are committed to clay as a material in very different ways. The love and life for ceramics are the cement that unites a number of individualists into a group.

The history of Gruppe 83 reflects the development of artistic ceramics over the last 50 years. The eighties were full of impulses for West German ceramics. Last but not least, the Westerwald Ceramics Museum was built in 1982. Members of the group have always been welcome guests and have participated in many exhibitions in our museum. After reunification, East German positions represented a great enrichment and logical extension of the friendly network. 

It is therefore not only pleasing, but also logical to present this important association again in its anniversary year. The exhibition shows selected pieces that react to each other in their diversity and thus express the diversity of ceramics in a special way.

36 Hours in Osaka, Japan



To see all the destinations listed in this guide and other ceramic sites worldwide, check out Ceramic World Destinations (CWD), MoCA/NY's interactive map listing over 4,000 destinations!


While Osaka may be renowned as 'Japan's Kitchen,' the city also holds great cultural significance and boasts a rich tradition in the arts. Its proximity to Kyoto, the ancient capital, and being the birthplace of Sado (the tea ceremony) further contribute to Osaka's artistic heritage.

Ceramics are collected and donated for public viewing, highlighting the role of passionate ceramic enthusiasts in preserving and sharing cultural treasures. These collectors, described as lovers of ceramics, have played a crucial role in assembling a diverse and extensive collection of ceramics for visitors to enjoy. Their dedication has allowed for the preservation and exhibition of ceramics, and the connection between the arts and ceramics adds depth to the cultural experience for visitors exploring Osaka's artistic landscape.

WHERE TO STAY

It's highly suggested to stay near Osaka/Umeda Station.

High-end accommodations: Conrad Osaka, InterContinental Osaka, The Ritz-Carlton, Hotel Hankyu International, and the Hilton Osaka. Mid-range options: Mitsui Garden Hotel Osaka Premier, ANA Crown Plaza Osaka, and Imperial Hotel Osaka. Hostels: Nine Hours Shin-Osaka Station, J-garden Shin-Osaka Capsule, Linda Hostel 106, Guesthouse U-En, Hotel the Rock.

TRANSPORTATION

Public transportation, train and bus, is the easiest and most affordable option for traveling around the city. Consider purchasing a prepaid Icoca card (a Suica or Pasmo card from Tokyo will also work). SUBWAY MAP

RESTAURANTS

To explore restaurant options, check out this comprehensive list published by Eater.


DAY 1

MUSEUMS, TEA CAFE & GALLERIES

10:00 AM - The Museum of Oriental Ceramics

Grab a coffee or breakfast at a nearby cafe and head to the Museum of Oriental Ceramics, where visitors can explore an extensive collection that goes beyond Japan. Noteworthy highlights of the collection include items from Korea and China from various periods, such as the Han, Ming, and Qing Dynasties. Additionally, the museum boasts a significant assortment of snuff bottles.  Korean celadon wares are divided into three distinct parts, showcasing the diversity and depth of the collection. 

While the museum is known for its traditional wares, it keeps pace with contemporary developments in the ceramic arts. Visitors may be pleasantly surprised to find special exhibitions featuring works by important modern ceramics artists, providing a dynamic and evolving perspective into the world of clay. This combination of traditional and modern elements make the museum a fascinating destination for enthusiasts and art lovers alike.

Photo courtesy: Zi-Han Hsu
Photo courtesy: Zi-Han Hsu
Photo courtesy: Zi-Han Hsu

11:30 AM - Nakanoshima Kosetsu Museum of Art

The Nakanoshima Kosetsu Museum of Art offers a unique experience, featuring a collection of privately collected tea wares from Mr. Ryohei Murayama, the founder of the Asahi Shimbun newspaper. This museum reflects Murayama's passion for art, showcasing not only Japanese tea wares but also works from other countries in East Asia.

Visitors can expect a diverse and comprehensive collection that goes beyond national boundaries. The inclusion of tea wares suggests a focus on the traditional aspects of East Asian culture, particularly to the tea ceremony, which holds significant cultural and artistic value.

Exploring this museum provides an opportunity to appreciate the convergence of art and tea culture, offering insights into the rich artistic traditions of Japan and its neighboring East Asian countries.

Photo courtesy: Kate Strachan and  private collections catalog
Photo courtesy: Kate Strachan and  private collections catalog

Photo courtesy: Kate Strachan and  private collections catalog
Photo courtesy: Kate Strachan and  private collections catalog

1:30 PM – Wad Café & Wad + Gallery 

Photo courtesy: Kate Strachan

Wad Café offers a delightful and immersive experience for its guests. The carefully selected décor creates an ambiance that promotes relaxation and enhances the enjoyment of conversations. The prospect of having to wait for a table adds to the anticipation, encouraging visitors to explore the adjacent gallery space on the 2nd and 3rd floors. The gallery space, accessible from the building behind Wad Café, provides a holistic artistic experience, combining the pleasure of tea with visual arts. 

The diverse assortment of tea choices caters to a broad range of preferences. The cafe also accommodates non-natives with an English menu. The mention of experiencing each tea differently implies a focus on the nuanced aspects of tea culture. Furthermore, the opportunity to select a tea bowl from Wad's display adds a personal touch to the tea-drinking experience. They also provide the option to choose sweets enhances the overall tea-drinking experience, making it not just a beverage but a sensory journey. This attention to detail in both ambiance and offerings makes Wad Café a promising destination for those seeking a unique and immersive tea experience.

Photo courtesy: Kate Strachan
Photo courtesy: Kate Strachan

The presence of contemporary ceramic artists exhibiting at Wad + Gallery indicates a dynamic and evolving space that embraces the latest trends and expressions in the world of ceramics. The emphasis on a well-curated display suggests a thoughtful and intentional approach to presenting the artwork, creating an environment that invites guests to engage with the pieces on a personal level.

Photo courtesy:  Han-Yun Liang

3:00 PM – Fujita Museum

The Fujita Museum is a treasure for art enthusiasts. Its status as a privately owned family collection, rooted in Denzaburo Fujita's passion for art, adds a personal dimension to the museum's history. The opportunity for visitors to explore the former family mansion, immersing themselves in the ever-evolving tea-ware collection, speaks to the museum's deep connection to both art and personal heritage.

The dimly lit exhibit room constructs a meticulously designed presentation that isolates each piece of art, encouraging focused attention and suggesting a curated and immersive environment. This setup allows visitors to engage with the tea-ware collection, highlighting the importance of each piece within the broader artistic experience.

Following a day immersed in art appreciation, the museum offers a thoughtful space for relaxation. The various options for guests to take a moment for themselves, be it in the tatami room, on the café's encircling steps, or at a seated table, introduce an additional layer. 

Photo courtesy: Kate Strachan
Photo courtesy: Kate Strachan
Photo courtesy: Kate Strachan
Photo courtesy: Kate Strachan

Photo courtesy: Kate Strachan

7:30 PM – RAURUAJI Gallery & Antique

The RAURAUJI Gallery offers a diverse and interesting blend of contemporary ceramic art and furniture antiques. The combination of these elements suggests an eclectic atmosphere, where traditional and modern aesthetics come together. This mix of mediums provides visitors with the opportunity to explore the intersection of different artistic expressions. Described as a place where one can casually "pop in" to view the current exhibit featuring tea-ware objects and figure sculptures, the gallery conveys a relaxed and accessible environment.


9 PM - Osaka Castle Main Tower (Osaka Castle Museum)

Consider a late night stroll around Osaka Castle, which is lit up with the Sakuya Lumina light display when the sun sets. With its roots tracing back to the Sengoku period, the castle has endured a rich history, witnessing battles, reconstruction, and pivotal events in Japanese history. It houses an ever-changing exhibition of cultural assets related to Toyotomi Hideyoshi, the Sengoku period, and Osaka Castle's history. 


DAY 2

MORE MUSEUMS & ARTIST STUDIOS

On the second day,  seize the opportunity to visit a local artist or continue along the path of exploring private collections housed in museums.

Photo courtesy: Yoshiko Naragino

10 AM - ARTIST STUDIO: Yoshiko Naragino

Yoshiko’s work consistently aims to express joy, vitality, and happiness through various creatures, events, and patterns, creating a larger-than-life fantasy that evokes familiar sceneries and stories. The size of the works requires viewers to look up, squat down, or move around, allowing for an immersive three-dimensional experience that emphasizes the weight and presence of the art.

Yoshiko Naragino Website

Photo courtesy: Yoshiko Naragino

11 AM - KATE STRACHAN

Kate Strachan is a transdisciplinary artist, who divides her time between Asia and the US.  Her clay work integrates various materials such as wax, wood and fiber to form manuscripts, sculpture, installation, and video art. Kate's work is viewed as a collection of both relics and texts conveying and preserving the routine of action, sexuality and silence. ​

Photo courtesy: Kate Strachan

1 PM - Japanese Folk Crafts Museum Osaka

Photo courtesy: Kate Strachan
Photo courtesy: Kate Strachan

The Japan Folk Crafts Museum Osaka, originally constructed as an exhibition hall, has undergone transformation and currently functions as the western base for the "Mingei Movement." Founded by Muneyoshi Yanagi, the Mingei Movement underscores the value of appreciating folk crafts and recognizing the beauty inherent in everyday, utilitarian objects.

Special exhibitions are held twice a year in the spring and fall, showcasing domestic and foreign folk art objects. The variety of folk-art objects, including ceramics, dyed and woven textiles, wood and lacquer works, and braided pieces, indicates a comprehensive approach to representing different aspects of traditional crafts.

The inclusion of commemorative lectures for each special exhibition adds an educational element to the museum's programming. 


3 PM - Itsuo Art Museum

The Itsuo Art Museum, dedicated to the memory of Kobayashi Ichizo (1873-1957), honors the legacy of Itsuo, a prominent figure renowned for his contributions to culture and art. Established in 1957, the museum boasts an extensive collection of 5,500 works of arts and crafts meticulously gathered by Itsuo throughout his lifetime. 

This remarkable collection reflects Itsuo's diverse interests and includes many prized gifts bestowed upon him by business associates. While photography is often restricted within museums, visitors have the opportunity to acquire well-printed catalogs, allowing them to take a piece of the collection home with them.

Photo courtesy: Kate Strachan
Photo courtesy: Kate Strachan

To explore our extensive listings of galleries, museums, design stores, and other destinations in Japan, go to the CERAMIC WORLD DESTINATION MAP!


CONTRIBUTOR

Kate Strachan is an interdisciplinary studio artist with a background in ceramics and fiber. She divides her time between Osaka and Philadelphia and has a rich artistic journey that includes an apprenticeship in Kanazawa, Japan, and studies at the Tainan National University of the Arts. 
Her recent accomplishments include receiving a grant from the Dutch government for the 2024 EKWC residency, winning NCECA's 2023 Emerging Artist Award, securing 3rd place for Blanc de Chine in 2021, and having her work selected for the New Taipei Yingge Ceramics Biennale in 2022.

Kate Strachan's Website

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The Ceramic History of Westerwald, Germany


The Origins - The Westerwald Clay Region


The vast and extensive clay quarries in the Westerwald region represent the largest connected deposits in Europe. Only a few other regions in the world are known to have clay sources of comparable size and quality. The Westerwald clay is distinguished by its exceptional ductility, virtually impurity-free composition, and excellent sintering properties. These clays are perfectly suited for stoneware production–a high-fired, waterproof, acid-resistant, impermeable clay.

The rich clay resources, together with abundant timber in the region, earned Westerwald the moniker "Pot Bakers’ Land" or Kannenbäckerland. The proximity of major long-distance trade routes such as the Salt Way and the Rhine, key European arteries, was pivotal in transforming Westerwald and its stoneware into an international success story.


Stoneware from Inception to the Renaissance


Kilns capable of reaching temperatures up to 1200 °C were documented in the Rhineland as early as the 13th century. The oldest documented evidence of pottery kilns in Höhr dates back to the year 1402. 

Extremely poor working conditions, warfare, and penury triggered migration movements across Europe, including the Westerwald region. Around 1600 skilled pottery masters from the Rhineland, Raeren in Belgium, and Lorraine began migrating to the so-called Pot Bakers’ Land (Kannenbäckerland). They infused fresh vitality into local craftsmanship, bringing new forms, decorative motifs, and new glazing and firing techniques. As a result, the pottery trade in the region experienced a major boost in the following centuries.

During this period, the distinctive pottery of the Pot Bakers’ Land developed: a grey, salt-glazed stoneware vessel adorned with cobalt blue painted decorations. The vessel shapes often show a carinated or angular shape achieved by the emphasized articulation of the different body parts through fluting or ridges. Cobalt blue painting was complemented by additional decorative techniques such as stamping and applications.

These vessels were embellished with depictions of prince-electors, bishops, biblical narrative cycles, and very mundane scenes featuring barn dances or mercenaries. Apart from everyday household ware produced for local sale, the potters also worked on commissions that were traded and sold internationally. Westerwald stoneware had become a product on the global market!


The Baroque Period


In Germany, the Baroque period, a new Italian style that developed after the deprivations of the Thirty Years’ War (1618 – 1648), had a significant impact on pottery. Westerwald experienced an economic upturn, leading to the establishment of new potteries everywhere. In 1771, the guild in the Pot Bakers’ Land (Kannenbäckerland) reached its zenith with six hundred master craftsmen in twenty-three villages. Aside from these, there were many so-called Schnatzer–individuals who, for various reasons– could not or should not be named master. The increasing number of competing potters led to a decline in quality, subsequently causing prices to fall. Faced with this situation, regional authorities were forced to take regulatory measures.

In addition to everyday pottery, craftsmen in the region specialized in creating drinking vessels, figurines, and ornamental pieces. Appliqué as adornment became popular—lozenges, medallions, rosettes, or blossoms were intricately and elaborately crafted and placed. Furthermore, new patterns were introduced, such as hatched lines or impressions made using a wooden stick and stamped decoration.

The products originating from the Kannenbäckerland were renowned for their high quality supra-regionally. Affluent clientele, including the aristocracy, entrusted and commissioned the potters with their specific wishes and needs. This is evident in the personal crests or emblems, such as "GR" for George Rex (King George of England).


Historicism:

18th to 19th Century


From the 18th century onwards, traditional stoneware products faced stiff competition from European porcelain and modern stoneware, gradually losing favor among solvent customers. Out of necessity, the potters focused on producing greyish-blue everyday household tableware up to the middle of the 19th century. 

A turning point occurred in 1864 with the recruitment of Bohemian modeler Reinhold Hanke. The long-desired technical and artistic change finally began as Hanke applied his skills to the hitherto traditional stoneware production, collaborating with

Peter Dümler, a talented designer in his company. By 1872, they developed a plaster vessel mold for repeated use, accommodating a thrown clay barrel. This new method enabled Hanke to create intricate, custom-made objects. Honored at world fairs and the recipient of numerous international awards, Hanke is seen as a legitimate heir to the long-standing Rhenish stoneware potters.

Progress now took its course. Driven by factory owners Friedrich Wilhelm Merkelbach II and Georg Peter Wick, improvements in industrialized production increased significantly. This marked a transformative era where traditional German stoneware could now be efficiently mass-produced.

Moreover, the educational reforms initiated by the Prussian government led to the establishment of three major technical colleges devoted solely to ceramics: in Landshut, Bavaria (1873); in Höhr–Grenzhausen (1879); and the former Silesian Bunzlau, now Bolesławiec in Poland (1897). The potter's craft transitioned from being solely passed down through hands-on apprenticeships to becoming a subject of scientific research and analysis, reflecting a broader spectrum of knowledge and skills beyond traditional workshop teachings.


Art Nouveau


During the increasing industrialization, an artistic counter-movement arose all over Europe at the turn of the 20th century, striving for a renewed strengthening of individualized craftsmanship.

To prevent the region's stoneware manufacturers from missing the boat, internationally renowned artists and designers were engaged. In 1901, Henry van de Velde (1863-1957) arrived in Westerwald, sparking a radical shift in stylistic approach. Simultaneously, Peter Behrens (1868-1940) contributed style drafts and templates, infusing the traditional greyish-blue appearance of Westerwald stoneware with a contemporary design.

Certain factory owners, including Simon Peter Gerz I, Merkelbach & Wick, and Reinhold Merkelbach, took an active role and established successful connections with renowned artists like Richard Riemerschmid (1868-1957). This collaboration ushered in a period of artistic renewal and innovation within the Westerwald stoneware industry.

To ensure their survival, the majority of companies continued manufacturing conventional household stoneware. Products embodying the Art Nouveau spirit appeared overly ornate for the average customer, leading to limited success for these new ceramic offerings. Only a select few companies achieved success with these new ceramic products.


Mass Production in the Post-War Period


After a reduction in output during World War II, pottery factories gradually returned to pre-war levels of activity in the 1950s, with a primary focus on the mass production of tableware. The Westerwald potteries emerged as the main designers and producers of the Fifties, experiencing a flourishing business that led to the creation of numerous new jobs. For instance, the Jasba company saw a sixfold increase in its workforce between 1948 and 1955.

Immigrant workers from Italy and Turkey also found employment in the concentrated pottery industry, centered mainly around the town of Ransbach-Baumbach. This economic miracle in the stoneware industry ushered in an era of prosperity for the Westerwald region, which endured until the 1990s.


Developments in Craft During the 20th Century


In contrast to other fields of fine art, the evolution of ceramic arts unfolded gradually and without sharp stylistic incongruities. This continuity was partly because handicrafts were not condemned as degenerate art by the Nazi regime; instead, they were supported for their perceived (Germanic) folksiness. 

Potters such as August Hanke (1875-1938) and Elfriede Balzar-Kopp (1904-1983) received high acclaim in national and international competitions for their traditional craftsmanship.

In the post-war period, Westerwald potteries survived by producing crockery in the style of the Thirties. As economic conditions improved, potters began to experiment once again, seeking more individualized forms of expression. The ceramic vessel started to free itself from its traditional role as a functional object, evolving into an autonomous art object. Creative principles from the fine arts and performing arts, such as assemblage, repetition, rhythm, or deconstruction, were applied to ceramics.

Elfriede Balzar-Kopp carving pattern, probably 1930s - photo courtesy:
Kreisbildstelle des Westerwaldkreises, Foto Georg Gerlach

Contemporary Art in Höhr-Grenzhausen


Those working or studying at the State Technical College for Ceramics (Fachschule), the Institute for Ceramic and Glass Arts (IKKG), or those active in the many workshops of the region share a common curiosity about what ceramic and glass materials can convey and how to express the art form.

But, the long history of Westerwald stoneware also calls for reflection: What does this place and region mean to us? How does our ceramic culture relate to neighboring regions or other cultures? Many artists employ century-old pottery techniques like wheel throwing or salt glazing to create new and contemporary objects. Every two years, students carry out a firing in the last functioning traditional salt kiln. By immersing themselves in this historical continuum, the region remains vibrant and well-prepared for its artistic future. The narrative of Westerwald pottery continues!


CONTRIBUTOR

Nele van Wieringen has been the Director of the Keramikmuseum Westerwald since 2018. She completed her master's degree at Koblenz University, Institute for Ceramic and Glass Arts in Höhr-Grenzhausen. There, she earned her doctorate in collaboration with the University of Art and Design Linz with a thesis on the art-theoretical conception of color in ceramics.

The Mapping of American History: "Points of Origin" at C24 Gallery


C24 Gallery - Chelsea, NYC 
560 W 24th Street 
New York, NY 10011

To the left, right, horizon, and periphery, fifty conical ceramic masks of various proportions are plotted throughout the gallery, echoing an ominous air. The staccato-sharp masks, coated with buzzing blues and adorned with pointillist protrusions, are animated with disconcerting expressions, interlocking and confronting viewers with their cryptic and unwavering gaze. Taking a reticent step closer, the contours of masonite prayer fans and plotter ink drawings featuring symbolic and figurative imagery emerge—anchoring the abstracted hoods with narratives personal to the artist, Tammie Rubin.

Originating from multiple axes to create a nexus of works revolving around the common theme of faith, Points of Origin, C24 Gallery’s latest exhibition, serves as a documentation of Rubin’s extensive historical research, a celebration of her master craftsmanship, and an intimate glimpse into her lineage. Although the ensemble of pieces possess contrasting formal qualities and viewpoints, David Terry, the director of the gallery and curator of the show, explains:

“When you think of the point of origin, and where you come from, that could be from many places. [Rubin’s] work and this body of work come from many different areas of her life, African American culture, American culture, women in her family, and the threads that make up the fabric of the country.


So when she was bringing [the pieces] out, I got really excited because they’re all from the same context, but she's exploring different media. And I love it when artists carry the same theme through but realize and recognize it through different forms, communicating at many levels to many different people.”

Creating a metaphysical altar and paying homage to her family and the Black American experience, the varying vantages harmonize in spiritual unison with their shared explorations of The Great Migration and Reconstruction—subjects Rubin hadn’t considered in her practice until she migrated to Texas in 2015. She elaborates:

“It was specifically about this idea of moving to Austin. You know, I moved here for a job, and that's when I started to think about my parents in a historical context. I'm taking from my family stories and then expanding that into larger research about other Black families that have had this experience and whose stories haven't been told. I’m reflecting on conversations about Black Americans having their history not being represented in our world.”

In fact, according to author Isabel Wilkerson, The Great Migration—a period from roughly 1910 to 1970 when six million African Americans mass relocated from the Jim Crow South to the North—was “the greatest and biggest underreported story in the 20th century.”

Always & Forever (forever, ever) No.14 - Photo by Daniel Krieger, courtesy of C24 Gallery

As the descendant of parents who migrated and met in Chicago (mother from southern Mississippi and father from Memphis, Tennessee), Rubin unveils their neglected history and memorializes her family and Black families alike in an archival collection.

Always & Forever (forever, ever), Drift No.2 - Photo by Daniel Krieger, courtesy of C24 Gallery
Always & Forever (forever, ever), No.24 - Photo by Daniel Krieger, courtesy of C24 Gallery

A clan of three ceramic hoods with pigmented Delphinium and Vivid Blue skin and scars of Radiant Red stand on a floating shelf by the entrance. The central figure, with a leveled head resembling a motherboard, represents a map of Chicago. Similar patterns of cities and migratory paths are also present on other masks in her Always & Forever (forever, ever) series.

On the right of the No.17 tribe, a funnel-shaped form with sgraffito rain strokes, dots, and beaded relief creates a sensational feast for the visual cortex. Although the mask isn’t directly portraying routes, the dynamic movement metaphorically alludes to migration as the pulsating red synchronizes and dances with the blue.

The particularly pointy, slanted hood has a more regal personality. Embellished with an obscured badge, a symbol originating from the Medieval Period, the hood contemplates power, principally within the context of law enforcement. Laced with Medieval and magical influences, the masks may appear solely, or most familiarly, to reference the Ku Klux Klan, but they also attribute to Knight and Shaman helmets, dunce caps, and wizards.

Rubin builds sizable, totemic red stoneware forms as seen in her Unknown Ritual Mask series and practices slip-casting smaller everyday objects—cones, funnels, food containers, and vintage lighting—reconfiguring them into non-functional headdresses. After making a mold, she speedily scratches, carves, punctures, and pipes beading onto the surface as they quickly dry.

“I think of all the mark-making that is repetitious as black bodies moving through space and time, so I’m physically marking that onto the surface of the ceramic forms. […] I’m interested in how to suffuse the form with another point of visual communication through the surface itself.”

Rubin then paints the pigmented porcelains, with sumptuous lines, shapes, and stencils. Some cones resemble Abstract Expressionist and contemporary paintings, others African beadwork, Aboriginal mark-making, and ornamental designs.

The exhibition is filled with a profusion of symbols. The plotter ink drawings portray hagiographical portraits of her grandmother, mother, and aunts all adorned with turnip, mustard, and collard green halos—food staples prominent in Rubin's upbringing. Masonite fans, framing the ceramic cones, are symbolic references to the prayer fans that were predominantly present in black churches and funeral homes to keep the congregation cool. Marked with text, figures, floral, dotted, and migratory patterns, the iconographical fans provide a window into the past and become profound relics that take on resonance and emanate the power of faith.

Rubin’s cerebral and complex perspectives are captured in Points of Origin, a transcendental exhibition visually and conceptually mapping and highlighting one of the most significant and overlooked demographic shifting events that will forever change the structure, history, and future of the United States of America. She emphasizes, “Black history is not separate from American history. These are Americans.” The diverse array of works converges into a singular point of origin, commemorating and celebrating the contributions and stories of Rubin and Black families who’ve built the foundation of the country.

“There is no American culture without black American culture. You can't say, well, they did it. We did it. We did it together.”

- Jacob Lawrence


Visit C24 Gallery at 560 W 24th Street New York, NY 10011, or explore and learn more about the exhibition "Points of Origin" and Tammie Rubin's works online at C24 GALLERY

Visions of Shigaraki, Japan


To see ceramic destinations in Shigaraki, Japan, and other sites worldwide, check out Ceramic World Destinations (CWD), MoCA/NY's interactive map listing over 4,000 destinations!



En Iwamura, a ceramic artist currently residing in Shigaraki, shares his experience working in the cultural heritage site and the benefits and challenges of living in the region. This essay is part of our three-part feature on the cultural heritage site Shigaraki. GET TO KNOW SHIGARAKI written by Michio Sugiyama provides insights into the historical, cultural, and traditional aspects of Shigaraki, and Hitomi Shibata shares a personal essay, Shigaraki - Our Journey in Clay, reflecting on her time living, working, and making art in Shigaraki.
Miho Museum: photo courtesy: Michio Sugiyama
Local train station - photo courtesy: Michio Sugiyama

I was born in Kyoto, Japan, and received my BFA and MFA at the Kanazawa College of Art and Craft in Kanazawa. I decided to study in the US and received my second MFA at Clemson University. After living and working in the US for six years, I returned to Japan and moved to Shigaraki. 

Shigaraki is not far from my hometown (about 30-40 min driving distance) and I found myself missing time spent with my family while I was abroad. I also want to raise a family with my wife in Japan.

While traveling and working at residencies, I felt like a nomad. Every time I moved, I had to also transport all my studio equipment, tools, and glazes and I found this to be too burdensome and prevented me from developing a consistent studio practice. I wanted to find the perfect place to settle and Shigaraki was the place as it not only has an international ceramic reputation but also because of the quietness and peace of the atmosphere necessary for my practice. I moved to Shigaraki in 2018 as a resident artist at Shigaraki Ceramic Cultural Park.

Shigaraki is a small village located in southeast Shiga prefecture, and known as one of six ancient ceramic kiln sites in Japan. The environment is pretty calm, surrounded by mountains, and the population is small. The image is like a picturesque Japanese traditional old village. My first impression was “What a beautiful and peaceful place!” It was nice to stay away from the business of the city and have a place to focus solely on my work. I quickly fell in love with the city.

Shigaraki Ceramic Cultural Park - photo courtesy: Michio Sugiyama
Palace ruins Shigaraki - photo courtesy: Michio Sugiyama

Of course, even with the positive aspects of Shigaraki, there are issues with this small village in the countryside of Japan. A key issue is the low population density. Getting to know the community and communicating with local people, I began to realize the reality of this place. After many years of shrinking demands for Japanese ceramic industries, there are so many factories and businesses that are closing, risking the future of this cultural heritage site. The younger generation of local people is leaving Shigaraki for a bigger city to seek their own life therefore, their heritage, passed down from generation to generation is disappearing. So, there are many empty houses and factories but people have no idea how they should approach these challenges.

En Iwamura in his studio in Shigaraki
En Inwamura's ceramic in his studio in Shigaraki
En Inwamura's ceramic in his studio in Shigaraki
En Inwamura's ceramic in his studio in Shigaraki

As an artist who works at this cultural heritage site, I would like to use existing resources and am thinking about the potential of the town. Thinking about all the empty factories, and houses, I would like to see the younger generations of people utilize the opportunities Shigaraki provides and create their own creative and innovative community here. For instance, I bought an abandoned gift shop and renovated it as my studio. I hope to see some kind of new creators’ community here in the future to preserve Shigaraki and its culture, traditions, and history.


CONTRIBUTOR:

En Iwamura

En Iwamura was born in Kyoto, Japan in 1988. Under the influence of both parents who are painters, he grew up in an artistic environment. After graduating with a BFA in craft at the Kanazawa College of Art and Craft, he began to be interested in the international Art world. he considers that ceramic has the potential to be one of the international languages, that can cross different cultures, people, and countries. En Iwamura's current research investigates how he can influence and alter the experience of viewers who occupy space with his installation artworks.

WEBSITE


Apply to the Summer 2024 Residency at Watershed Center for the Ceramic Arts


Watershed’s summer residency sessions offer artists uninterrupted time to focus on their practices in our state-of-the-art ceramics studio. During a session, up to sixteen artists form a creative community while living and working on campus. Participants enjoy 24-hour studio access, comfortable accommodations, and delicious meals.

DEADLINE FOR THE SUMMER 2024 RESIDENCY IS FEBRUARY 1, 2024.

photo courtesy: Watershed Center for Ceramic Art

Enclosed by lush, densely rich Maine forests and the Sheepscot River lining the serene campus, the Watershed Center for the Ceramic Arts offers an idyllic escape from everyday busyness—an ideal haven for artists to focus on creating works and cultivating a stronger, more intimate creative relationship with themselves and others.

In Henry Miller’s Big Sur and the Oranges of Hieronymus Bosch, the author elaborates on the significance of quietude and departure from "the senseless grind which daily threatens to annihilate all incentive." Miller contends that 'the immature artist seldom thrives in idyllic surroundings," emphasizing that it's the "mature artist who feels the need to break with the clique surrounding [them]."

In this vein, Watershed epitomizes the ideal landscape for an artist to mature: The rural land by the coastline transports you into a tranquil realm sans distractions, and the campus is infused with an infectious energy of wild and imaginative exploration. Offering ample studio space, state-of-the-art facilities, networking opportunities, and non-hierarchical communal support, the residency forces artists—whether born in the early aughts or the previous century—to confront their creative selves, overcome blocks and boundaries, and contemplate their artistic intentions.

“It [has] been two weeks that passed like two hours. Pure bliss, a constant smile, and green views that seep deep into my bones. I am truly grateful for this gift I received. I feel like this time apart from my studio, from my family and friends, and my country  […] gave me the opportunity to focus all my energy and my creativity only on clay!”

- Shay Gerassy, 2023 Resident

Watershed is ideally situated close to many of the attractions that make Maine “Vacationland”.
The campus has many wooded walking trails filled with ceramic sculptures left by past Watershed artists, creating an ever-changing sculpture trail.

Watershed's new Windgate studio has 7,500 square feet of space with abundant windows for beautiful views and natural light.

Watershed’s studio has recently undergone incredible renovations. The decrepit barn that once acted as the studio space has transformed into a modern and sophisticated 7,500-square-foot building. The Windgate Studio—lit by overhead LED and natural sunlight seeping through the rows of windows—is equipped with electric and kick wheels, a variety of standard ceramic equipment (e.g., slab-rollers, mixers, pug mill, wheels, extruder, and dry box); a large glaze room with ventilated workspace; a floor-to-ceiling spray booth; a dedicated plaster room; and a clay mixing space, galley kitchenette, and a seating area—the ceramicist’s dream studio.

The campus also offers firing facilities, including a wide range of electric, gas, and wood kilns, and a wood and metal shop available for use (permission required in advance). Residents enjoy 24-hour studio access, accommodating the artists’ creative flow and promoting art-making at any time of the day.

Residents select from a large inventory of dry materials in the well-ventilated glaze room.
2023 Residents in Studio
It houses two wood kilns, two gas kilns, a soda kiln and multiple electric kilns.
Many sessions involve group firings organized by session participants.

"I had never been with so many other ceramicists all at once! It was such a special experience to all have that in common. I loved that there was such an age range and we were all at different points in our ceramic careers/journeys. There wasn't ever any judgment of where we were at in our creative process or what we spent our time doing at the residency."

- Adriana Lemus, 2023 Resident

2024 SUMMER RESIDENCY: SESSION THEMES

Watershed’s unique self-directed residency program is divided into six two-week sessions, which are centered around a specific theme, directed by an organizer, and anchored by established artists. The sessions are designed to stimulate intellectual discussions and provide a safe space for artists to explore ideas, techniques, and processes, and build long-lasting friendships with participating residents. For more details about the sessions, click here.

Tasha Lewis, organizer of Session 2: Digital Clay, expresses her excitement about the opportunity to share research and learn from other artists. She describes the unique structure of the residency as the optimal space for exploration:

"[It] is so much deeper and messier than a conference presentation or Instagram story, and my hope for this particular residency is that every participant will have the opportunity to act as both a teacher and a student and benefit from the in-person co-mingling of our individual studio practices.

Also, I think even in the world of computer-aided ceramic design, there can be specializations that may not overlap. For example, some of the artists I am bringing together are experts in 3D printed clay and others in slip-casting digitally fabricated originals; collaborating across those areas of expertise is what most excites me about this opportunity."

Trisha Kyner, the organizer of Session 4: Beautiful Community and resident alumni of Watershed, shares a similar sentiment to Lewis. She prioritizes sharing and communal support while navigating new models of mentorship, honoring history and memory with the common thread of accessibility, social practice, and community building:

"We want to take this time to make work, acknowledging that those of us who are artist/teachers or artist/community workers need time to focus on work and bounce ideas off others in the field. We are a multi-generational group that includes immigrants, indigenous, Black American, and first generation college voices. Throughout the session we will discuss the themes that animate our art and inspire our teaching. A common thread in many of our practices is polyvocality: the desire to communicate more than one thing, including multiple aspects of being and responsibility."

2023 Summer Residents
2023 Summer Residents

"The highlight of my experience was 100% the people. We had an incredible group of artists that really bonded quite quickly. I also got to tackle some ideas that have been filtering around in my brain that would have taken a bit of time to get to in my own studio practice."

- Katie Coughlin, 2023 Resident

Watershed is renowned not only for its state-of-the-art facilities and intellectually invigorating sessions but also for its meals, all meticulously prepared by the Watershed kitchen and sourced from local organic farms. Healthy, seasonal, and delicious meals are impeccably cooked and served to residents three times a day from Monday through Friday. On Saturdays, the kitchen is closed, and on Sundays, residents enjoy brunch and dinner.

For those with dietary restrictions, the Watershed kitchen can prepare vegetarian and gluten-free meals with advance notice.

Artists occassionally organize outdoor banquets
Exchange handmade tableware after the meal

Various scholarships are available to subsidize Watershed’s residency fees (including room and board charges). All applicants are eligible to apply for the Kiln God Awards, and full scholarships are specifically available for artists of color, international and multi-cultural artists, underrepresented populations in the ceramic field, artists whose work addresses political, social, cultural, or environmental issues, and emerging artists. Watershed also provides a work exchange opportunity. Click here for more information about residency fees and scholarships.

Judith Schwartz, the President of MoCA/NY, past President of Watershed, and the honoree of the 2021 Watershed Legend Award, made it her mission to provide scholarships at Watershed: one award that supports artists whose work is unconventional and another to support diversity and international exchange.

"I am proud to be associated with this special environment where creativity, experimentation, and love for clay abounds and is collectively shared."

- Judith S. Schwartz

2023 Summer Residents in the Windgate Studio
2023 Summer Residents in the Windgate Studio

Watershed Center for the Ceramic Arts
103 Cochran Road, Edgecomb, ME 04556   

For more information about Watershed's 2024 Summer Residency, click here.    

See Watershed Center for the Ceramic Arts and other ceramic destinations in Maine on our Ceramic World Destinations Map!

48 Hours in Çanakkale, Turkey


To see all the destinations listed in this guide and other ceramic sites worldwide, check out Ceramic World Destinations (CWD), MoCA/NY's interactive map listing over 4,000 destinations!


Interior of Mirrored Bazaar: photo courtesy: Yeliz Saydan

A BRIEF OVERVIEW: Çanakkale, Turkey

Located in the northwest of Turkey, Çanakkale is renowned as a stunning coastal town, distinguished among the many ceramic-rich towns in the country. Today, the city proudly preserves its vibrant ceramic heritage and historical legacy. Often referred to as the 'Potter's City,' Çanakkale embodies its rich past while embracing its present charm.

Çanakkale was originally an Ottoman fortress named Kale-i Sultaniye, meaning Fortress of the Sultan. Over time, it became renowned for its pottery, hence the later name 'Çanak Kalesi,' which translates to 'pottery fortress' from the words 'çanak' for ceramic bowl and 'kale' for fortress. From the late 17th century until about the first quarter of the 20th century, Çanakkale was a prominent center for ceramics production, creating works known for their distinctive forms and originality.

Situated on the Dardanelles Strait, one of the main water passages connecting the Aegean and Black Seas and separating the Asian and European sides, the city boasts a rich history and culture. It holds significance as the nearest major town to the ancient site of Troy.

Since ancient times, owing to the availability of suitable clays for pottery-making in its region, Çanakkale has emerged as one of the most important centres for ceramic production, both nationally and internationally, particularly in terms of exportation overseas. Ceramics originating from Çanakkale have brought considerable innovation to Anatolian Turkish ceramic art due to their distinctive styles, compositions, colours, and designs.

Çanakkale ceramics is a folk art that stands out with its simplicity, contrary to Iznik or Kütahya ceramics decorated with flamboyant patterns made for the palace. Animal figurines are a category of late Canakkale ceramics which are very popular among collectors. Horses, lions, and camels (standing or sitting), and fantastic birds, decorated with rosettes and painted with various colours, are offered as souvenirs to the sailors and travelers of the countless ships passing through Canakkale.

Designs are painted in purplish brown, orange, yellow, dark blue, and white under green, brown, oxide-yellow, and colorless glazes. Dishes are decorated with galleons, mortars, mosques, and dwellings as well as animal figures such as fish and birds. 

WHERE TO STAY

In this charming town, you will find various accommodation options according to your preferences. It is easy to find a comfortable place to stay in hotels or B&Bs on both sides of Çanakkale (Asian and European sides) that welcome guests with their cozy atmospheres. The most exclusive accommodation venues, such as Truva Hotel, Akol Hotel, Limani Hotel, Foreigners Hotel, and Kervansaray Hotel, located in the city center, will make you feel at home.

TIP: check this website for various accommodation options.

Canakkale view - photo courtesy: Yeliz Saydan

TRANSPORATION

Due to the small size of the city centre, you may not need to use transportation to visit the ceramic shops as most places are easily accessible on foot. However, if your accommodation is located far from the city center, you can take advantage of the public buses or rent smart scooters or bicycles provided by the municipal services.


DAY 1

Museum, Studios, and Sunsets by the Sea

Çanakkale Ceramic Museum - photo courtesy: Emre Erdoğan
Çanakkale Ceramic Museum interior - photo courtesy: Emre Erdoğan

10:00 AM – Çanakkale Ceramic Museum: 

The Çanakkale Ceramic Museum building was purchased by the Çanakkale Municipality from the Turkish Naval Force. This historical building, once a military bath, underwent restoration in 2013 through the municipality's long-standing efforts, transforming it into a ceramic museum showcasing prominent examples of traditional Çanakkale ceramics.

Within the museum, selected pieces from various collections are displayed, both temporarily and permanently, and the museum's studio produces replicas of original ceramics. Enthusiasts can visit and witness Çanakkale ceramics here, which not only reflects the taste of specific periods but also attract attention through their ethnographic diversity, quality, and creativity.

You can also view temporary exhibitions on the upper floor of the museum, and in the souvenir section on the lower floor, you have the opportunity to purchase commemorative ceramic products to take with you.

Finally, end the tour by spending some time in the garden venue, filled with the smell of history, which will make it an unforgettable experience.

  • The museum is open every day except Mondays, with free admission.

11:00 AM – Ergun Arda’s studio (Baba Ceramic Studio): 

At the Studio BABA, located next to the Çanakkale Ceramic Museum, you can witness Ergün ARDA's modern interpretations of traditional Çanakkale ceramics. Additionally, you can engage in enlightening conversations about ceramics and art with Mr./Dr. Arda, who serves as an academic lecturer at the city university.

Plate by Baba Studio - photo courtesy: Baba Studio
Ergun Arda by Baba Studio- photo courtesy: Baba Studio
Baba-Studio
Baba Studio - photo courtesy: Baba Studio

12:00 PM – Burak CIFTCI Studio (Canakci Ceramic Studio)

You'll transport through time when you explore the traditional ceramics produced by Burak Çiftçi at his workshop just ahead of the city centre. Mr. Çiftçi, a ceramic artist and potter from Çanakkale, demonstrates great mastery in creating replicas of traditional ceramics, a skill he has specialized for years.

His pottery mirrors traditional ceramics in form, color, decoration, and texture, earning a place in the collections of many enthusiasts.

1:00 PM – Golf Family Tea Garden and Relax with a View of Dardanelles:

After your first day of touring ceramics, you can unwind by the sea. As you reach the seaside in the northern part of the city, you'll find a family-friendly spot to have some drinks. In this beautiful place, you can enjoy the view of the Dardanelles while sipping on Turkish coffee or tea.

6:00 PM – Gergedan Bar and Sunset

The sunsets in the westernmost part of Turkey, are undoubtedly indescribable. From the rooftop of Gergedan Bar, you can sip your drink and relieve the tiredness of the day.


7:30 PM – Limani Restaurant:

For those who prefer a quieter dining experience, have dinner at the Limani Restuarant which offers a variety. This place is located by the seaside, near Gestas Dock, and also features a hotel on the upper floor, making it a viable option for accommodation as well. 


DAY 2

Gallery, Museum, and a Ferry Ride to Kilitbahir Castel

10:00 am – Çanakkale Art Gallery:

You can start your second day from the Çanakkale Art Gallery, which is often referred to as Madame Kety's mansion. Facing the Canakkale Strait, the gallery, managed by the City Cultural Directorate of Canakkale, hosts periodic exhibitions throughout the year. This historical venue not only accommodates various art events but also showcases works by local and foreign ceramic artists. 

11:00 AM – Çanakkale City Museum and Archive

At the corner of Fetvane Street merging into Carsi Street, opposite Yali Mosque, you’ll see Çanakkale City Museum and Archive which opened its doors to visitors in 2009. The ground floor of this two-story building hosts temporary exhibitions, typically changing every two months.

The first floor comprises two interlocking sections. In the initial section, information boards detail Çanakkale's Ancient Periods, the Ottoman Period, and the First World War. This section also displays donated objects from the Çanakkale War in compartments along the wall. The second section serves as the primary exhibition space, featuring informational boards with texts and visuals covering various aspects of the city.

On the second floor, visitors can access the city archive and library, and see their collection of Çanakkale ceramics. For those eager to delve into the history of Çanakkale city, this museum offers a wonderful exploration.

  • The museum is open every day except Mondays, with free admission.

1:00 PM – Kilitbahir Tour and Kilitbahir Castel

This charming village, steeped in tourism and history, is easily accessible via a ferry ride from the city center, offering the experience of seeing Çanakkale from the European side. Known as the 'Lock of the Sea,' this village marks one of the intersection points between Europe and Asia. Here stands the sole remaining castle, located at the heart of the city.

These castles, constructed during the Ottoman period by Fatih Sultan Mehmed, hold significant military and strategic importance. Today, this location serves as an attractive travel destination, inviting tourists to breathe in the scent of history.

On this tour, you'll have the opportunity to explore the castle's interiors and exteriors and take a short tour around the hills of Kilitbahir village, where small ceramic selling points await your visit.

Also, enjoy a unique street delicacy, fish bread, as your lunch in Kilitbahir village.

  • Kilitbahir Castel is open every day except Mondays, with an entrance fee.
  • Click here to view Gestas ferry round trip schedule

7:00 PM – Dinner at Yalova Restaurant

As you return to the Canakkale city centre, prepare yourself for an evening feast. Indulge in the exquisite dining experience at Yalova restaurant, an incredible culinary destination in Canakkale known for its gourmet delicacies and seafood. You can also enjoy a seaside view if you prefer a table outside. The restaurant is located close to the ferry dock, along the city's southern coastline.


Day 3

A Visit to Cimenlik Castel, Ceramic Studios, and a Bazaar

10:00 am – Cimenlik Castel and Naval Museum Tour

Enjoy your morning exploring Cimenlik Castle and the Naval Museum located on the Canakkale side of the castles. This castle was ordered to be constructed by Mehmet the Conqueror in 1452. It now operates as a small military museum featuring exhibits on the Gallipoli battles and some war relics.

Sakirs Place - photo courtesy: Yeliz Saydan

12:00 PM – Sakir’s Place (Sakir’in Yeri) and a view of the Dardanelles

Sakir’s Place holds nostalgic value for anyone who spent their childhood in Çanakkale. It's the perfect spot to enjoy freshly brewed Turkish tea while observing the ships sailing in and out of the Dardanelles.

1:00 pm – Lunch at Dardanelle -  I Love Fish

Surrounding the historic clock tower square, you'll discover a great selection of dining and drinking options. Among them is 'I Love Fish,' located directly across from the tower. 'I Love Fish' is an initiative by Dardanel, one of Turkey's most important canned food and seafood companies. Here, you can choose from a diverse menu, ranging from seafood fast food to sushi, and experience the love of fish.

photo courtesy: Yeliz Saydan

2:30 pm – Ceramists’ Street visit

Prepare for an intergenerational experience as you witness the tradition of establishing ateliers next to the castle, a practice dating back to the Ottoman period, which continues to thrive today. Many workshops in the Fevzipasa District welcome ceramic enthusiasts, continuing their production and offerings. Here are some notable examples:


Adem Yavuz: photo courtesy: Yeliz Saydan

4 PM: GAK (Adem YAVUZ)

Adem Yavuz, known for producing some of the most original ceramics in the city, has infused pop art elements into his creations. His postmodern ceramics feature a combination of life mottos and depictions from our surroundings, hand-drawn by Yavuz and transferred onto the ceramics.

We guarantee that sipping coffee from one of these cups will bring a smile to your face. You can also commission Yavuz to engrave personalized expressions onto his ceramics.

GAK studio - photo courtesy: Gak Studio
GAK Studio - photo courtesy: Gak Studio
GAK Studio - photo courtesy: Gak Studio

Ilter Ozyildirim: photo courtesy: Yeliz Saydan

5:00 PM: Muddy Sweet Ceramics

The workshop owned by Ilter and Burcu Ozyildirim, two prominent ceramicists in Çanakkale, produces ceramics that push the boundaries of creativity. Their workshop features a wide array of fun figurines alongside iconized products. Offering pleasure, fun, and childlike excitement together, the Ozyildirim couple also organizes workshops for those interested.

Muddy Street Studio - photo courtesy: Muddy Street Studio

5:30 PM – Aynali Carsi (Mirrored Baazar)

This covered 'bedesten,' which has been the subject of local songs of Canakkale, stands as a significant icon of the city. Formerly known as Canakcilar Pazari (Potters' Market), it resembles a miniature version of Istanbul's Grand Bazaar. Today, it's said that only the entrance gate of the Mirrored Bazaar, situated on Carsi Street in the heart of Canakkale, remains in its original state. Following restoration by the Canakkale Municipality, this bazaar has gained further popularity.

Interior of Mirrored Bazaar: Yeliz Saydan

Here,  you can discover a wide array of spices, local products, and an extensive range of rich souvenir options. Enjoy the tradesmen's conversations in the bazaar, where you will spend time visiting small workshops and ceramic sales points.

Apart from a few boutique ceramic studios, some shops operate on a wholesale basis. Ceramics such as mugs, pots, magnets, and various products come from different production ateliers around Çanakkale and many nearby towns and provinces. These shops are mostly engaged in artisan trade.


Ayse Kunelgin: photo courtesy: Yeliz Saydan

6:00 pm – Studio visit Ayse Kunelgin (Kepenek Ceramic Studio)

Ayse Kunelgin, a prominent ceramicist in Canakkale, has run her workshop at the entrance of Yali Inn for over twenty years. This significant workshop, the product of long effort and patience, is one of the pioneering establishments among the new generation of artists in Canakkale.

Kepenek Studio - photo courtesy: Yeliz Saydan

You'll find symbols of the city—cats, horses, birds, and various herbal forms—created as decorative trinkets.

Kepenek Ceramics: photo courtesy: Yeliz Saydan

6:30 pm – Yali Hani or Han Kahvesi (Yali Inn)

Since 1889, this historical venue, also known as the passenger inn of Canakkale, has welcomed travelers for centuries. Notably, it stands as Turkey's only double-covered inn, featuring front and back doors, making it a cherished social hub in the city. Nowadays, it is a meeting point where people of all ages, especially youngsters, are regulars.

Aside from the Han Coffee House, which offers cold and hot beverages, Yali Inn boasts bars, ateliers, and boutique shops, creating a delightful and cozy atmosphere where intellectual activities often take place. Even if you choose to sit alone, you'll soon find yourself engaging in social interactions, and who knows how many people you will meet to make lasting friendships.

Yali Inn - photo courtesy: Yeliz Saydan
Yali Inn back entrence: photo courtesy: Yeliz Saydan

8:00 pm – Dinner at Mor Salkim Meyhanesi and Fun Times at Barlar Sokagi

On your final evening in Çanakkale, indulge in traditional Turkish appetizers (meze) and salads while savoring Turkish raki at Mor Salkim Meyhanesi. Located on Bar Street, the city's liveliest street, this restaurant offers a pleasant dining experience. Following dinner, enjoy the colorful world of Bar Street.


DAY 4

Excursions to Significant Sites

9:00 am – Troia Ancient Side

To reach the museum, located 30 km away from the town, aside from renting a car, you can opt for public minibusses. The minibusses to Troia depart from the shelter station, providing services every half hour, and will take you directly to the Troia Ancient Site in Tevfikiye village. From here, you can first start your tour by visiting Troia Ancient City, then explore the Troia Museum.

The Ancient City of Troia, renowned as the battleground of the Trojan War mentioned in Homer's Iliad, was included on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1998. Dating back to 3000 BC, it stands as one of the world's most famous archaeological sites. Ongoing excavations since 1871 have revealed the city's history of construction and destruction across numerous layers. These excavations unearthed forty-two building layers and nine city layers, unveiling a theater, baths, various artifacts, an advanced sewage system, and building foundations. Today, archaeological efforts continue under Canakkale 18 Mart University. The Troia Museum houses some of the most remarkable discoveries from these excavations, offering visitors the chance to witness these outstanding examples firsthand.

Troia Museum outer view - photo courtesy: Yeliz Saydan

11:00 AM – Troia Museum

Opened in 2018 to visitors, the museum building is located at the entrance of the Ancient City of Troy in Tevfikiye Village, operating as a unit of the Canakkale Museum Directorate. The construction of the Troy Museum began in 2013 following the National Architectural Project Competition with Free Participation and Single Stage.

At the Troy Museum, visitors delve into the life, cultures, and archaeological history of Troy, which left its marks on the Troas Region and is renowned for Homer's Iliad Epic. This narrative unfolds through artifacts from the excavations.

While visiting the museum, visitors follow a story divided into seven sections: Archaeology of Troad Region, Bronze Age of Troy, Iliad Epic and Troian War, Troas, and Ilion in Antiquity, Eastern Roman and Ottoman Period, History of Archaeology, Traces of Troy. Enjoy seeing the antique ceramics excavated from each layer.

Troia Museum interior view: photo courtesy: Yeliz Saydan
Troia Museum interior view - photo courtesy: Yeliz Saydan
Troia Museum ceramic foundings - photo courtesy: Yeliz Saydan
Troia Museum ceramic foundings - photo courtesy: Yeliz Saydan

12:30 PM – Tevfikiye Archeo-Village

Tevfikiye, one of the villages in the centre of Canakkale, is known for its villagers who have been supporting the excavations since the time of Schliemann. For this reason, an archeo-village project was designed to give the village a touristic identity. In this project, a story was created within the village based on three main components of Troia. They aim to create a sustainable creative interaction ground between Çanakkale city centre and Troia, Tevfikiye Archeo-Village, and to highlight Tevfikiye Archeo-Village as a living cultural area which is identified with Troia in the national and international arena.

Tevfikiye Archeo Village - photo courtesy: Yeliz Saydan

2:30 PM –  After the Troy tour, you have two options to consider for the last day:

1. Assos

Assos Athena Temple - photo courtesy: Yeliz Saydan

Enter the world that is the Anatolian equivalent of the Antique Greek period. Founded by the Ancient Greeks around the 7th century BC, the city of Assos is crowned with an impressive temple dedicated to the Goddess Athena. Although the temple has limited remnants, it stands as the sole Doric example in the Anatolian region.

Among the sights to explore in Assos are the remarkable ancient city walls, a Hellenic city gateway with two massive towers, a Roman theater, a gymnasium, an agora, and the necropolis (cemetery).

Assos - Behramkale - photo courtesy: Yeliz Saydan

The town also features structures from other periods, including an Ottoman-era mosque and fortress dating back to the 14th century. Excavations at the archaeological site are carried out in cooperation with Canakkale 18 Mart University and the American Institute.

Wandering through the narrow streets of the village, you’ll lose yourself in the historical ambiance, encountering various art galleries, ceramic and glass studios, and souvenir shops.

Assos local shop: photo courtesy: Yeliz Saydan

After taking a walk on the Aristotle Road, you can climb to the temple of Athena to salute the sun and complete the day. During the summer season, don’t forget to swim in the beautiful bays and dive into the azure blues.

  • To reach Assos by car from the Canakkale-Izmir Road, follow the signs south to Ayvacik and then proceed along the scenic road leading to Assos/Behramkale.
Assos Ancient Harbor - photo courtesy: Yeliz Saydan

2. Bozcaada

Bozcaada Castel - photo courtesy: Yeliz Saydan

This triangular-shaped island, measuring approximately 5-6 km on each side, lies 5 km from the Turkish mainland. Accessible by ferry from Geyikli district dock, the tiny island welcomes visitors with its castle amidst the deep blue waters.

Known as Tenedos in Greek, Bozcaada is a small Aegean Island, considered the more charming of the two islands in Canakkale. It has a different climate from its surroundings, a clean sea, and a unique lifestyle.

The famous Greek poet Homeros once said, 'God created Bozcaada so that people would live long.'

According to mythology, Poseidon's grandson Tenes was thrown into the sea in a wooden chest and washed ashore at  Leucophrye. Climbing the island slopes, Tenes settled there and cultivated grapes from wild vines, making viticulture and wine production the symbols of Tenedos for over 3000 years.

Bozcaada city - photo courtesy: Yeliz Saydan

Bozcaada's population has undergone frequent changes due to invasions, migrations, and wars throughout history. After the 1500s, under Ottoman rule, Turks and Greeks fostered a rich common culture. However, starting in the 1960s with the forced migration of the Greek population, viticulture and wine production disintegrated. In the last decade, many efforts have been made to revitalize this old local culture.

Additionally, the island is focused on handicraft production and has become a thriving tourist destination, attracting the interest of both local and foreign visitors. Besides numerous ceramic workshops, art galleries exhibit contemporary artworks. 

Bozcaada view - photo courtesy: Yeliz Saydan

The island, which becomes quite crowded, especially in summer, is invaded by tourists. For this reason, it is necessary to make reservations in advance for accommodation and restaurants.

Don't forget to swim in the crystal-clear waters of Ayazma Beach before leaving the island. If possible, consider taking a boat trip to explore all the bays.

7:30 pm – Dinner and Accommodation

In both districts (Assos or Bozcaada), dinner promises to be spectacular, offering seasonal fish caught by local fishermen, and delightful salads and appetizers. As you can see, in almost every region of Canakkale, seafood is an anticipant and distinguished part of the city's cuisine. 

For accommodation, you can comfortably stay in hotels that have been transformed from the unique structures within these beautiful historical and touristic districts.


To explore our extensive listings of galleries, museums, design stores, and other destinations in Turkey, go to the CERAMIC WORLD DESTINATION MAP!


CONTRIBUTOR

Yeliz Saydan graduated with bachelor's and master’s degrees from Canakkale Onsekiz Mart University at the Ceramics Department. She gained experiences in the fields of culture and arts and participated in EU projects. In particular, she has been conducting research on destinations of ceramic cities. She also took part in an internship program at the Italian Association of Cities of Ceramics, collaborating with Canakkale Municipality to specialize in the subject. Currently studying at the Art and Design Department of Izmir Dokuz Eylul University as a Proficiency in Art student. She carries out her art works and research in Canakkale.

Yeliz Saydan's Blog


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Exploring Identity and Cultural Dichotomies with Brendan Lee Satish Tang at C24 Gallery


C24 Gallery - Chelsea, NYC 560 W 24th Street 
New York, NY 10011

On a suspiciously quiet Thursday evening near the Chelsea piers, the streets are bathed in fading sunlight, the day prematurely surrendering to dusk. The crowd of gallery goers looking for visual stimulation, networking prospects, or free drinks has yet to proliferate, and amidst this quietude stands C24 Gallery, a beacon with its luminous lights casting an alluring glow through the window and onto the sidewalk. A veritable unopened treasure chest awaiting discovery.

The gallery is a reliquarium, a sacred box showcasing Ming Dynasty vessels that have been penetrated by and entwined with anime-inspired robots and gilded ormolu.

Adorning the walls and encircling these mutated cyborg vessels, are expansive, bulletproof stretched kevlar sculptural paintings, stained by steel rust and varnished with a luminous patina.

Albeit stylistically distinct—abstract vs. representational and muted color palette vs. an explosion of hues—the contrasting aesthetics of Brendan Lee Satish Tang and Coby Kennedy’s works meld beautifully in the space. Non-competing and complimenting, the industrial features and the matte and glossy surfaces of both artists’ work harmonize to present Cultured, a duo show on view until December 23rd.

installation view of "Cultured" - photo courtesy: C24 Gallery

C24 Gallery describes Cultured as “refined, cultivated, nurtured, artificially grown, or synthesized.” When asked about the exhibition’s title in connection to the works on display, David Terry, the director and curator of the gallery, explains how the artists’ underlying processes align and how the concept and content behind them are parallel: 

“The two artists are deep within their analysis of their own culture, personally and within a historical context with Brendan being inspired by the Ming Dynasty and Coby exploring the African-American diaspora.” 

With their post-colonial explorations of race, identity, and heritage, Cultured showcases the multiplex manifestations and individualistic interpretations of socio-cultural issues experienced collectively.

Manga Ormolu

Manga Ormolu 4.0-aa, 2023, Ceramic and mixed media, 22 x 10 x 10.5 in. (55.9 x 25.4 x 26.7 cm) - photo courtesy: C24 Gallery

For over two decades, Brendan Lee Satish Tang (he/they) has been working on their series entitled Manga Ormolu—a fusion of distinctly Asian aesthetics accented with European filigree. 

A cobalt blue landscape, dragons, fish, florals, and warriors are painted with precision on the ‘porcelain’ facades—imagery referencing the style of vessels from the 18th-century Ming Dynasty, a prosperous period of economic and cultural expansion in China. 

Agglutinated and burgeoning onto the melting Chinese relics are Japanese robotic features that have spored and taken control over the vessels—a sci-fi parasite. The glossy cyborg mutants are inspired by Tang’s longstanding love of Mecha: “a genre of Japanese manga and anime that heavily features or focuses on mechanical innovation. Robots, cyborgs, androids, and space stations, for example, all fall under the wide umbrella of mecha; however, robots are usually the primary focus” (NYPL).

Tang’s infatuation with science fiction and utopia began as a child, which coincides with when mecha grew to peak popularity in the West. They were engrossed in playing video games, reading manga, and watching shows like Transformers, Astro Boy, and Star Trek.

Manga Ormolu 5.0-aa, 2023, Ceramic and mixed media, 23 x 12 x 13 in. (58.4 x 30.5 x 33 cm) - photo courtesy: C24 Gallery

Unsurprisingly, those formal and conceptual themes became parents to their visual language and permeated into their practice—bringing the fictional robots into the physical realm.

Although the Chinese vessels and Japanese cyborgs come from the same continent, that is their only shared variable. The traditional vessels are monochrome, soft, fleshy, and matte, with a crackled glaze, and delicate brushstrokes with value. Meanwhile, the futuristic, graphic robotic parts are hard and manufactured, glossy, and engineered.

The contrasting evocations of the past colliding with the future evoke nostalgia and hope—or detachment and fear—depending on the person and how they view the flourishing omnipresence of technology.

Concerning the geopolitical relationship between Japan and China, Tang explains how this wasn’t initially a forefront concern, however, they became aware of the contentious history between the two nations when they had an exhibition in Richmond, Vancouver.

“It was really interesting to have that experience because there were a lot of people from mainland China that live in Richmond and when they came to the show, they saw [the Manga Ormolu pieces] as an affront and it was like almost an insult onto the historical vessels and that sort of thing. As, you know, we always think of a colonial agenda within a Western context, but it was a colonial agenda within a Japanese context as well. And so there was a weird form of telephone game where it's like I'm unpacking my 'Asianess' through the West unpacking 'Asianess'.”

As a Chinese, South Asian Canadian who was born in Dublin, Ireland, Brendan has always lived within a Western landscape and felt disconnected from their heritage as they assimilated, negotiated, and suppressed their “Asianess” to steer Western spaces. When they discovered the ormolu—the 18th-century French and German aristocratic practice of embellishing pre-existing, often foreign or “exotic” objects—they saw themselves reflected in the gilded Chinese porcelain.

Manga Ormolu 4.0-bb, 2023, Ceramic and mixed media, 23 x 10 x 11 in. (58.4 x 25.4 x 27.9 cm) - photo courtesy: C24 Gallery
Manga Ormolu 2.0-t, 2023, Ceramic and mixed media, 20 x 14 x 13in. (50.8 x 35.6 x 33cm) - photo courtesy: C24 Gallery

“I was excited by what I was seeing kind of in a way of seeing myself in the work where I am very much an Asian identity but I have all this Western filigree all over me. I am the Ming Vessel with the gold filigree and the strange architecture and stuff like that. But then I started seeing things where they started making these elaborate pieces with Buddha and put all these things that have no business being together. I felt a bit revolted, but also equally fascinated.”

Unearthing these appropriated, fetishized, and Westernized Asian relics became the genesis of their Manga Ormolu series and an outlet to explore their identity. Akin to Asian fusion restaurants, where spices and ingredients are modified to become more accessible and digestible, the cyborg vessels appear Asian whilst garnished with European flavors to suit the Western taste. 

These sculptures are a self-portrait of Brendan, they humorously scrutinize and satirize the Western lens and cultural appropriation, whilst simultaneously confronting their self-inflicted discrimination. No longer, are they molding and denigrating themselves to accommodate and please others, however, their people-pleasing tendencies have sublimated and materialized in their craftsmanship.

work in progress of Manga Ormolu 4.0-bb, 2023 - photo courtesy: Brendan Lee Satish Tang

“I am a chronic pleaser,” they state whilst chuckling, “I go to ridiculous lengths to make [my work] seem so seamless.” 

Tang is unquestionably skilled and perfectionistic, with a meticulously torturous yet satisfying process. It begins with sketching, measuring, and drafting the sculpture’s foundation. Subsequently, they throw a vase, base, and ‘shot glasses’ (trimmed and attached to the sides of the form) on the wheel, then proceed to build the composition by extruding, slab building, hand-building, manipulating, pinching, and sanding. Tang then fastidiously hand-paints traditional Chinese imagery and dresses the piece by airbrushing, glazing, and applying gold luster treatments.

The laboriously constructed sculptures and impeccably glazed surfaces imitate porcelain and metal, despite being made from low-fire earthenware. As an exercise in trompe-l’œil, Tang teases the viewer into thinking the piece is constructed from separate parts using varying materials. They further confuse the viewer by grounding the form on a wooden plinth and adding rubber gaskets, screws, and bolts—some of which are real and others ceramic.

Manga Ormolu 2.0-s, work in progress - photo courtesy: Brendan Lee Satish Tang
Manga Ormolu 2.0-s, 2022, Ceramic and mixed media, 40 x 19 x 15 in. (101.6 x 48.3 x 38.1 cm) - photo courtesy: C24 Gallery

The result is an intriguing, animated mutation that illustrates Tang's expert understanding and decades-long experience in playing with trompe-l’œil and the interrelationship between reality and fantasy.

Traditional and futuristic, Western and Asian, industrial and fine art, and imperial elitism and commercialism—Tang gifts us with sculptures filled with juxtapositions, complexities, and perplexities. The cyborg vessels invite you to question your heritage (within your ethnic and cultural tribes), your identity (within society), and your existence (in the Digital Age).

Study 8, 2018, Ceramic and mixed media, 6 x 11 x 5.5 in. (15.2 x 27.9 x 14 cm) - photo courtesy: C24 Gallery

Visit C24 Gallery at 560 W 24th Street  New York, NY 10011, or explore and learn more about the exhibition "Cultured" and Brendan Lee Satish Tang's works online at C24 GALLERY

Watch C24 Gallery's artist talk  for their exhibition in 2021 entitled "Earthen Delights" with artists Brendan Lee Satish, Hinrich Kröger, and Steven Montgomery - moderated by MoCA/NY PResident Judith Schwartz. 

A Beloved Collection - Kathy Butterly at James Cohan Gallery

James Cohan Gallery - Tribeca, NYC 
48 WALKER ST
NEW YORK, NY 10013

photo courtesy: James Cohan Gallery

For over three decades, New York-based ceramic artist Kathy Butterly has ventured into the realms of color, form, and the intricacies of ceramics. Her relentless dedication and mastery of clay have solidified her position as a prominent and revered figure in contemporary ceramics. Butterly's remarkable body of work comprises small-scale sculptures characterized by meticulous and whimsical details, evocative colors and compositions, and unparalleled technical expertise.
Recently, Butterly showcased her tenacious commitment to ceramics in an enthralling mini-retrospective titled A Beloved Collection presented by the James Cohan Gallery. Concurrently with the exhibition at their Tribeca location, the gallery also exhibited Butterly’s latest sculptures at the ADAA: The Art Show. Although the exhibitions have concluded, selected works remain available for purchase. View MoCA/NY's President, Judy Schwartz on-site video interview with Kathy Butterly, Elizabeth Harvey Levine, and collector David Kirschenbaum.

A BELOVED COLLECTION, 1994-2022

Works from the private collection of Elizabeth Harvey Levine

Upon entering the viewing room at James Cohan Gallery, visitors are immediately enveloped by a vibrant ensemble of sculptures spanning from 1994 to 2022, offering a comprehensive voyage through the evolution of Kathy Butterly's artistic vision. The thirty-six petite sculptures arranged chronologically, are sourced from the private collection of Elizabeth Harvey Levine, an ardent and longtime patron of Butterly’s work.

The space unfolds with delicately adorned and opulently ornate sculptures positioned on the left side of the gallery—the genesis—and crescendos to Butterly's most recent lively and gestural creations. Despite their demure scale—excluding two exceptions—each sculpture exudes a grand energy, brimming with vitality, distinct personalities, and animated expressions.

“It is a beloved collection because each piece in this magical collection is such a magical gem. They’re infused with her sense of humor, they all have sensuous body folds, they’re meticulously executed, and the details are beyond what people are willing to explore in ceramics.” - Elizabeth Harvey Levine

Humor imbues the exhibition not only in the cheeky and amusing configurations of the sculptures but also in their titles, setting a tone and offering a glimpse into Butterly's intentions and interpretations. For instance, a lemon-yellow glazed figure adorned with oval green forms on its lip and hip emanates refined elegance with polished gold accents, yet it comically bears the title "Nancy Beans," adding a playful twist.

Associating these titles with the sculptures is almost as enjoyable as experiencing the pieces themselves, inviting speculation, contemplation, and insight into Butterly’s mind.

This collection, akin to a personal diary, exemplifies Butterly's artistic innovations in composition, color palette, and treatment of glaze while documenting significant and pivotal periods in both her personal and creative life.

Pointing to a piece named "Knititation," Butterly reminisces, “I was pregnant. [I remember] just the waiting and the knitting." She elaborates further on the show, "It’s my diary, my diary is on display. I knew exactly what I was thinking and what I was doing and each one is very specific to a time period of my life.”

"Knititation" beautifully encapsulates Butterly's earlier works—the lyrical pastel and shocking neon color palette, skin-like folds, intricate line marks, and fine carvings, complemented by a whimsical and playful "pedestal." It vividly showcases her technique of painting with and on clay.

Her painterly treatment of clay can be attributed to her early studies as a painter when she was drawn to ceramics but was reluctant to fully accept the medium as she viewed ceramics as functional pottery ware. It wasn’t until she met Viola Frey, an artist known for her non-functional, figurative, animated ceramic sculptures and painterly expressions, that she embraced ceramics.

Intuitively created, Butterly starts with a ready-made cast, molding it into a functional vessel before sculpting, folding, denting, and smoothing the clay. Subsequently, she applies glazes and subjects the disfigured vessel to multiple firings, often reaching up to 20 to 30 times. The layers of clay and glazes illustrate Butterly’s devotion and profound connection with each piece imbuing them with a unique history and seducing you into a portal awaiting exploration.

Tiny pearlescent beadings, crackling and crystalline glaze textures, sharp and fluid surfaces—the porcelain and earthenware amorphous sculptures gift us with a splendid visual orgasm. They not only serve as pages from Butterly's diary but also as testaments to her exceptional technical skill and artistic aspirations.

With their diminutive scale, the sculptures beckon viewers to draw closer, inviting a magnified appreciation of every minute and intricately carved detail, cultivating an intimate relationship with each piece. They entice, hypnotize, surprise, and inspire a desire to explore and decode their narratives and language—a journey into their portal, into their distinctive universe.

“[Butterly’s sculptures] are irresistible,” Elizabeth Harvey Levine states, “and Kathy, herself, is the most genuine person I know and her pieces are straightforward and honest, complex, fused with humor and that is what Kathy is. They are just an embodiment of her.”


Visit James Cohan Gallery at 48 WALKER ST NEW YORK, NY 10013, or explore and learn more about A Beloved Collection and Kathy Butterly online: James Cohan Gallery

Organic Reflection: Steen Ipsen at HB381 Gallery

HB381 Gallery - Tribeca, NYC 
381 Broadway, New York, NY 10013

HB381 Gallery window
Lighting up the corner of Broadway and White Street sits HB381, Hostler Burrow’s contemporary art gallery in Tribeca, exhibiting recent works of Copenhagen-based ceramic artist Steen Ipsen. Ipsen's immaculately crafted, vibrant, and dynamic biomorphic sculptures draw the attention of passersby, captivating onlookers through the gallery's glass windows.
 Entitled Organic Reflection, the exhibition, running until December 22, 2023, marks Ipsen’s debut solo exhibition in the United States, albeit not his first collaboration with the gallery.
In 2021, Hostler Burrows collaborated with Copenhagen Ceramics—an exhibition platform showcasing contemporary Danish ceramics. Ipsen, along with co-founders of Copenhagen Ceramics Martin Bodilsen Kaldahl and Bente Skjoettgaard, co-curated and participated in Bend, Bubble and Shine: Copenhagen Ceramics, showcasing nine contemporary Danish artists. Subsequently, Hostler Burrows began representing Ipsen and Kaldahl, both of whom held solo exhibitions at the gallery this year.

Organic Reflection

On one side of the gallery, nine pieces from Ipsen’s Ellipses and Tied Up series are presented equidistantly on plinths. Upon first viewing, the earthenware, monochromatically glazed pieces exhibit a shared polished and bulbous sensibility, eliciting admiration for their expert craftsmanship and vibrant colors. However, a closer examination reveals the individuality of each sculpture. The blobjects (a word that defines curvilinear flowing shapes - a portmanteau of “blob” and “object” - as described in Garth Johnson’s catalog essay) adorned with PVC or leather strands, offer distinctive characteristics and expressions–provoking an idiosyncratic experience. 

Organic Reflection - photo courtesy: HB381 Gallery

For instance, Ellipse 8 and Ellipse 13 resemble a croquembouche, enticing and delectable, while Ellipse 12 and Ellipse 15 evoke the appearance of konpeito candies. In contrast, Ellipse 9, Ellipse 11, and Tied Up 3 exude a biological, cellular essence. Despite the association with smooth, glazed surfaces that evoke confectionery, Ipsen draws inspiration from growth principles like crystallization and cell division. Notably, Ipsen’s titles–Ellipse, Balls, Bubbles, and Tied Up, emphasize the physical form over the conceptual context, demanding subjective interpretations while highlighting the significance of design. 

Ellipse 8 - Glazed earthenware, PVC, photo courtesy: HB381 Gallery
Ellipse 13 - Glazed earthenware, PVC, photo courtesy: HB381 Gallery
Ellipse 12 - Glazed earthenware, PVC, photo courtesy: HB381 Gallery
Ellipse 15 - Glazed earthenware, PVC, photo courtesy: HB381 Gallery
Ellipse 11 - Glazed earthenware, PVC, photo courtesy: HB381 Gallery
Tied Up 3 - Glazed earthenware, leather , photo courtesy: HB381 Gallery

Steen Ipsen has devoted decades to studying and mastering ceramics, exploring myriad shapes and compositions, leading to recognition by the Danish Arts Foundation as "one of the most gifted ceramic artists in Denmark."

His expertise shines through in meticulously crafted forms devoid of flaws or imperfections. Ipsen casts and sculpts ellipses, balls, and spikes from earthenware clay, refining their surfaces through sanding and polishing. He then applies layers and layers of glaze–pouring, spraying, and painting until perfection is achieved.

Contrary to the appearance of the sculptures being held together by the PVC or leather threads, the clay spheres are sliced to the most accurate angle to join seamlessly together. The addition of PVC comes last as he ties the strands, creating an abstract, spatial net resulting in a vibrato of tension, stability, complexity, and simplicity.

Steen Ipsen in studio - photo courtesy: HB381 Gallery

Juxtaposing and situated across the Ellipses and Tied Up sculptures are six works from Ipsen’s Black Organic Movement series. The animated forms, liquid in demeanor, defy gravity with their undulating, concaving curves—suspenseful and seductive. The stark purity of the glazed surface mirrors the surrounding environment and forces the viewer into a psychological confrontation as they discern reflections of themselves. The inkblot-like sculptures are akin to a Rorschach test.

Black Organic Movement at HB381 Gallery

Intuitively sculpted, Ipsen coils from one side of the piece to the other, a divergent approach from his other series which are precisely methodological. Still, Ipsen’s unwavering commitment to flawless surfaces, reflective glazes, and masterful design is a consistent throughline in his impressive oeuvre. 

Black Organic Movement 4, 2023, glazed earthenware, photo courtesy: HB381 Gallery
Black Organic Movement 3, 2023, glazed earthenware, photo courtesy: HB381 Gallery

Organic Reflection encapsulates both the physical and psychological essence of reflection. The glazed, reflective blobjects serve as a distorted yet captivating mirror, inviting viewers to delve into a hypnotic and visually opulent world. Each piece not only mirrors its physical environment but also prompts a reflective introspective experience.

The exhibition stands as a testament to Ipsen's artistic odyssey. The Ellipses and Organic Movements series signifies a notable evolutionary shift from his earlier geometric explorations in clay (Moduls (1996) and Spikes (2005)). These newer series represent the pinnacle and embodiment of Ipsen’s decades-long commitment to mastering the art of ceramics and design, showcasing his enduring dedication and growth throughout his career.

Steen Ipsen in his studio - photo courtesy: HB381 Gallery

Visit HB381 Gallery at 381 Broadway, New York, NY 10013, or explore and learn more about Organic Reflection online: hb381gallery.com