New Trends Highlighted at ‘Objective Clay’ Exhibit at Surf City Gallery

Aug 30, 2017
Photo by: Pat Johnson Gallery owner and artist Matt Burton holds a deconstructed cup by Blair Clemo.

The “Objective Clay” exhibit at the m.t. burton gallery is the work of a group of artists who have formed an online collective. Other artists in existing potters’ and ceramicists’ collectives have the advantage of living in an artist’s colony or being from the same general location. But these 12 artists from all over the country met in 2012 at the Utilitarian Clay VI Symposium at the Arrowmont Center for Arts and Crafts in Gatlinburg, Tenn., where they were presenters.

They wanted to stay in touch, promote and encourage each other and have done so through monthly video conferencing and their website,, and a blog. The goal of the online collective is to “sustain a successful career making utilitarian objects in clay.”

Artist Matt Burton, owner of a brick and mortar gallery and clay studio in Surf City learned of the Objective Clay online collective through three friends who have shown in his gallery in contemporary clay exhibits over the past 18 years: Bryan Hopkins, Shawn Spangler and Deb Schwartzkopf.

“There are two new trends that younger ceramic artists are doing,” said Burton. “One is using liquefied colored clays in squeeze bottles and deconstructing objects and the other is using black porcelain.”

Burton used the works of Blair Clemo as the example of using colored clays. “He has squeeze bottles of liquefied clay (called slip) in different colors and he spins clay on a ceramic bat while he creates lines in the colored clays. Then he cuts and uses the slabs to create cups or teapots. He reconfigures the objects. He’s pushing the envelope. It’s cool,” said Burton.

“I also like these black porcelain, covered bowls by Linsday Oesterritter,” he said.

Bryan Hopkins plays with texture by glazing only parts of his white porcelain bowls and slab-built vases and cups by pressing clay into plaster molds he’s made of wood objects, metal screens, bubble wrap and other found objects.

Doug Peltzman makes infinite small marks on his teapots and vases and then brushes oxides or different colors into the incised marks for a textural, tweedy effect. A plaid dish that resembles glass was made using a high-gloss glaze.

Some ceramic artists, such as Emily Schroeder Willis, combine wheel-thrown pottery and slab-built techniques. Her vase and bowls are slab-built and her finger marks are visible on the insides.

“Potters come up with different ways to create traditional forms. They take a traditional form like a teapot or a vase and abstract it. They are having fun trying new things,” said Burton.

Traditional forms that strike the funny bone are the painted “Farm Animal” cups and bowls by Kip O’Krongly. Having the morning cup of Joe from a wide-mouth smiling rooster and a bowl of cereal that reveals a benevolent sheep at the bottom seems like a great way to start the day.

The “Objective Clay” exhibit is at Burton’s gallery through Sept. 7.

— Pat Johnson

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