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Ryan McKerley is a Texas-based ceramic artist using a technique called water carving (or water etching) to design patterns on his functional pottery. Water carving is a reductive process that mimics erosion. McKerley paints paraffin on sections of bone-dry porcelain where he wants to remove clay. He then uses a wet sponge to wipe the exposed area, slowly removing material, creating smooth canyons on the surface of his pots.

It is this seductive process that is at the root of McKerley’s ceramic art practice.

McKerley explains, “Process is the main influence on my work. I didn’t envision a style to seek out but was led to my current body of work by following this technique. Certain lines and shapes are possible in water carving and these are the lines and shapes in my work.”

Most of McKerley’s work is soda fired, creating an organically varied surface that complements the soft shapes and lines from water carving. His whole practice is fueled by the romance of the ceramic process. The work is decedent, made on intuition, he does what feels best, and what is the most fun. This unwavering love for process shines through in his pottery, suitable for daily use, or contemplative sculpture.

Have you tried water carving porcelain? Tell us your favorite techniques in the comments!

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