The new wave of ceramics that have become cult
I never imagined that a ceramic ashtray could provoke the same frantic reaction in me as a designer handbag. And yet, there I was on a Friday night, glued to my screen, counting the seconds until an Instagram flash sale in an attempt to get my hands on it.
This was no ordinary ashtray: it was a particularly debauched ashtray, filled with lipstick-rimmed cigarette butts, gold teeth and empty drug packets, painstakingly rendered in clay by the ceramist of the moment Alma Berrow. .
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Kate Moss, Sadie Frost and Blanca Miró are already fans, and her knack for “finding the comedy and the fun of the gross” has made her so popular that sales have now shifted from social media to West End galleries.
Berrow is at the forefront of young, cool, Instagram-famous ceramic artists who breathe new life into a millennial medium with their signature humor, penchant for pushing boundaries, and an overriding lack of pretension. “Before, the goal was to make a ‘perfect’ bowl, cup or vase,” says Berrow. “Now it’s all about playing and having fun.” And that sense of fun is contagious, opening up the art form to a whole new audience.
The Covid is partly responsible for the renewed interest in this ancestral art. “The enforced slowness brought on by the pandemic has contributed to a new appreciation for handmade crafts, and ceramics in particular,” says Dr Cliff Lauson, curator of the upcoming Hayward Gallery exhibition Strange Clay: ceramics in contemporary art which runs from October 26 to January 8, 2023. “Artists working with clay today demonstrate an unprecedented freedom, unconstrained by traditional techniques, styles, or schools of thought.”
And ceramics are becoming more and more common. Anissa Kermiche’s cheeky Love Handles Vase was a cult buy and is still a bestseller on Net-A-Porter and Matchesfashion. Seattle-based Adrien Miller’s “Yin Yang Lovers Bowl” has exploded onto Instagram amid the pandemic — as has the work of Freya Bramble-Carter, Katy Stubbs, Henry Holland, Jake Clark and Karen Cheung, whose swear word porcelain pendants sell out in seconds.
Bold, tongue-in-cheek and conversation-provoking, these buzzing new ceramics are sure to entertain us (and, thankfully, our guests these days too).
This article appears in the November 2022 issue of ELLE UK, on newsstands now.