The pervasiveness of handmade pottery is a remarkable part of our modern culture. There is no substantial reason that potters should exist at all outside of a tiny subculture, just like the other craftsman and craftswomen who have become obsolete because of industrial and technological advancement. You know… like iron workers, leather craftsman, hikers who insist on lighting campfires by rubbing sticks together, and people who play the original Pokemon on Gameboy – they exist… but not in nearly the numbers that potters do. Lets be real, I don’t NEED you to make me a mug. I could buy 75 diner mugs for the price of what most potters (rightfully) charge for theirs. The reason why ceramic artists continue to make and the reason customers continue to buy is a complex combination of artistry, connectivity, community, intimacy, story, meditation, culture, and so much more – it’s beautiful.
There also exists some incredible challenges within the contemporary pottery field that we still need to work through. There is an accepted complacency of quality standards brought on by a heartwarming blended community of professionals and hobbyists that preach relentless encouragement – a culture in which critique is mostly frowned upon. In the end, it doesn’t matter if your pots get better… your friend will jury you into the cup show anyway. This amazingly supportive and hermetic community is stifling its own advancement in many ways.
This list of potters to watch in 2018 was compiled by looking at hundreds of ceramic artists from around the world, talking with industry educators, historians and makers, and combing the globe’s leading ceramic exhibitions for remarkable craftsman who are exhibiting an immense progression aesthetically and/or professionally. Once the standard for the list was established, it was difficult to find others to match the momentum of the leaders – in particular the work of contemporary Korean potters. There were also many challenges when compiling this list.The biggest issues were the obstacles related to language barriers and access to foreign websites from my U.S.-based office. It should also be noted that we are using the term “potter” liberally to encompass artists making functional pots, artists making decorative or sculptural vessels, and artists using “the pot” as a subject in installations or sill lifes.
Please tell us what you think in the comments and share this article with your ceramic artist friends. If you think we’ve missed a gem, email the artists website to us at email@example.com and I promise we will consider them for future publication. And, finally, if you have not signed up for our newsletter, click here to add your email today!
Joonho Lee (Korea)
Joonho Lee is a Korean potter with a wide range of aesthetics reaching from traditional Korean tea sets to minimal-modern work tastefully incorporating other materials like wood or copper.
In 2017 Joonho participated in Daily Art (Korea) and ChaJing (China), both major exhibitions for functional pottery. In 2016 Lee received the “Award for promising talent’ (translated) by the Itami Museum of Arts & Craft, Japan. These are just a few of Lee’s major accomplishments since receiving his MA from Seoul National University, Korea, in 2014.
Follow Lee on Instagram at @lee__joonho
Scott McClellan (USA)
Woodfire potters are cursed with balancing their creative input with the intense unpredictable and visceral result of the woodfire process. It’s immensely challenging to be able to predict the clay and kiln phenomenon precisely enough to collaborate with it for successful pots in design, ergonomics, and decoration. A successful piece often appears remarkably zen for all the fighting that it took to arrive at the final product. Scott McClellan has devoted his career to mastering this balance.
Scott McClellan received his MFA in Ceramics from the University of Missouri (Columbia, MO) in 2017 but has been ramping up in the U.S. ceramics field long before receiving his degree. In the past 2 years alone, McClellan has participated in 25 exhibitions including 2 solo shows and 5 invitationals.
Follow McClellan on Instagram @mcclellanpottery
Matt Davis (England)
Matt Davis makes work appearing to reside in the digital world which actually inhabits our physical space. It’s anxiety-inducing to imagine that tech could be more pervasive into our lives than it already is – and Davis is making sure we consider this.
Davis had a big year with a feature in Wallpaper* The New Futurists issue (2018), participation in Decorex (2018), a selected collaborator for ECAlab (Environmental Ceramics for Architecture Laboratory, his work was picked up by Heal’s a high-end British furniture and furnishing retailer, and he won the ‘Emmanuel Cooper Award’ at Ceramic Art London. I could go on, but you get the idea – Davis is blowing up.
Follow Davis on Instagram @ceramics.x
Monika Patuszyńska (Poland)
Monika Patuszyńska is a Warsaw, Poland-based ceramic artist making waves in European contemporary ceramics and beyond. The National Centre for Ceramics in Cardiff describes Patuszyńska as,
“the exact opposite of a porcelain factory worker – she breaks plaster forms, she saws them into pieces. […] She looks for stitches, edges and broken structures and creates dynamic and smooth shapes out of them. This resembles putting together non-matching elements of a jigsaw puzzle.”
In 2015 Patuszyńska topped off her MFA degree with a degree in Design: History and Criticism from SWPS University, Poland. Since then she has participated in 17 group exhibitions, 1 solo exhibition, and has gone to 5 residencies, worked on commissions with New York architecture firm Peter Marino Architect, and lectured a 3 art institutions.
Follow Patuszyńska on Instagram @monika_patuszynska
Kelly Austin (Australia)
While much of Australia’s clay community is arguing over the country’s “dumpy ceramics” craze, Tasmania-based artist Kelly Austin is taking a much quieter approach to her practice – exploring still life. Her work is thoughtful, reductive, and easy to look at, but don’t get too comfortable, there are endless layers of concepts to sort through in these unsuspecting compositions. Her work dissects our relationships with domestic objects, how subtlety affects our daily experience, and the importance of curation of our personal space.
Austin explains her focus:
“I am curious about the way we interpret things and how our understanding of one object may influence our perception of another. Some of my forms are grounded in utility and familiarity while others are more abstract and ambiguous. My work explores the composition of ceramic objects in still life compositions.”
Austin received her Master of Philosophy from ANU School of Art in Canberra, Australia, in 2016 and her BFA in 2011 from Emily Carr University of Art and Design, Vancouver, Canada. She has been awarded numerous grants for research and production of work over the last two years and recently closed a solo exhibition at CraftACT titled Space for Softness.
Follow Austin on Instagram at @kellyaustinceramics
Justin Donofrio (USA)
Justin Donofrio is in love with the romance of material phenomenon. His reductive ceramic process gives voice to the clay placing a conceptual focus to our relationship with the environment and with the objects with which we choose to surround ourselves with.
“Focusing on the fluidity of process and materials as remnants of making, I work with a limited number of tools and movements to allow the clay to actively inform the line quality and elegant volume.”
Donofrio received his BFA from Colorado State University in 2016 and has already landed 9 upcoming exhibitions for 2018 including a solo show at Red Lodge Clay Center.
Follow Donofrio on Instagram at @just.donofrio
Lee Kajin (Korea)
“Lee Kajin is one of the most promising, up-and-coming craft artists in Korea dedicated to making contemporary celadon wares” – Hucraft.com
Lee holds an MFA from Seoul National University (2012) and is known for her Waterdrop series of work which features thickly applied celadon glaze over large drop forms placing Korean ceramic history in modern environments. She has recently participated in the Seoul Crafts Fair 2016 (Seoul, Korea), Dwell on Design 2016 (LA, USA), 2016 GICB 2017 (Korea), and was chosen for Hyundai’s Brilliant 30 in 2016.
Nick Weddell (USA)
Nick Weddell is in his first year of graduate school at Alfred University (Alfred, New York) and as been pumping out compelling work from the start. Playing somewhere in the realm of Takuro Kuwata, Ron Nagle, and Morten Løbner Espersen, Weddell takes a relentlessly experimental approach to ceramics. Weddell pushes the conventional ideas of everything: beauty, material limitations, ergonomics, color, and texture – nothing is concrete. The resulting art objects the are challenging and changing long-held conventions.
Follow Weddell on Instagram at @nicks_ceramics
Won-Dong Shin (Korea)
Won-Dong Shin is a remarkable young ceramic artist/designer advancing rapidly in the field with his established style and elegant porcelain forms.
Shin received his BFA in 2015 from Korea National University of Cultural Heritage and has already shown in many important exhibitions. His work was featured in the 2016 CheongJu Craft Fair, GCIB 2017, and in 2013 he was awarded the “Grand Prize” by the (Korean) Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism.
Follow Shin on Instagram at @s_mujin