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The Visual Art of Ceramics

What is it about a pot, vessel, or container that can move us in an instant to become a collector just like that? Perhaps there are natural born collectors in the world, and we understand that emotion! We know a few of those not-so-rare-birds, right inside our very own walls here at V & R (wink, wink). They exist!

Beyond the desires the collector of fine objects may have, what we know is that pottery is one of the few interior design trends that never goes out of style. Created with a traditional material and steeped in a long history that dates back to 24,000 BC, ceramics appeal to everyone! When we think of the pieces we carry in our Store, our tagline describes them best, The Special, The Useful, The Handy, The Beautiful.

We value the use of ceramics in all our design work. We find ceramics fit into styles that are simple and complex, from affordable to expensive, depending on the role it plays in the space's designing. The most common use in designing homes is in the tiling of floors and walls. Tiles are beautiful and practical, easy to clean, and can be stain resistant. They can add an extra layer of interest to the overall look of an entryway, kitchen, or bathroom.

Ceramics can be part of our everyday life, and by this we mean the objects that adorn our homes and the usefulness of pieces that fill our kitchen cupboards. Handmade trays and bowls can catch loose jewelry, keys and coins. Tumblers and mugs can be a little feeling of comfort in our hands when sipping a favorite tea. Ceramic collections are often found at home on sideboards, dressers and tables, and can be a feature in the grand scheme of a design. Using ceramic objects can affect a room’s character, liveability, and charm. This we know!

We have been asked what is the difference between pottery and ceramics, and actually, they are the same. Ceramic material can be divided into the three categories of earthenware, stoneware, and porcelain. The composition of the clays used, type of additives and firing temperatures determine the nature of the result. The oldest method of making ceramics is called hand-building. This form of construction is made by hand from coils of clay, combining flat slabs of clay, or pinching solid balls of clay, or some combination of these. Parts of hand-built vessels are often joined with the aid of slip.

Glazes are added during the firing process to create smooth surfaces, which also help to protect the ceramic. Glazes are a type of glass that stick to the clay surfaces and helps seal the porous ceramic when holding liquids. The adding of a glaze gives the piece a waterproof layer with a glossy or matte finish and color.

We love that modern and antique pieces alike can leave us feeling connected to the artist. Antique pottery offers the relationship the piece has to nature, the people, and their societies from where the piece originated. In The Store, we have a 19th century Algerian vessel with the original finish. Pottery making is practiced in many Algerian regions, and more often than not, in the mountainous areas. We don’t have a precise idea of the location where this piece was created, but likely it was made by the Kabyle peoples for the red clay color for which their region is famous.

The symbolism is another telling sign, defined by common traits of the area’s pottery. A combined simplicity, functionality, strength, water-tightness, and aesthetics are typical in their designs. The form and ornamentation draw from rural cultural symbols and feminine sensibility. The hand-built pottery was an indigenous tradition made by the Kabyle women. Various sizes and shaped vessels were created for holding water, milk, oil, cooking, eating food and oil lamps.

A pottery of this nature, crafted with the spirit of the people and the elements of the earth, follows a timeline from a beginning, and one with no end. When you walk into a space and your eye is drawn to a statement piece of art that commands you to stop and pause, it’s the same reaction one might have from a relevant piece of pottery. This is what great art can do! The captivating beauty and the history of a fine ceramic can play a significant role in our relationship with a space. A single piece or a showcased collection of ceramic objects can be the signature of a room.

There are so many reasons we treasure these found pieces in our design work. We know they can tell a story. To realize that studio pottery expresses the artists’ feelings and emotions with color, pattern, and the materials they use elevates ceramics to an art form. The many uses of transforming clay into structure seem limitless, and as designers, what has attracted our attention for years has been the visual artistry and character of ceramics that they are.

Ceramics in the kitchen or pottery as a centerpiece in a room, these loved items are timeless and here to stay. The popular trends of earthy naturalist palettes and the pieces with vivid color and shape are what you see in the pottery world right now. In the end, we believe ceramics are personal. They should express you, your home, and your style. Look and see what you may have in your collection. Are you ready to try something fresh? Do you have a keepsake piece hidden away waiting for its prominent place in your room? Ceramics may give you an unexpected spark of creativity when considering your surroundings. We say go for it!


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