Kate MacDowell

 

Each of Kate MacDowell‘s pieces is sculpted out of porcelain, bit by bit, allowing for an otherworldly luminosity, plenty of strength, and the ability to show fine texture. Each work of art immediately takes on the appearance of a specimen being preserved and studied after passing away from the effects of environmental issues.

In my work this romantic ideal of union with the natural world conflicts with our contemporary impact on the environment. These pieces are in part responses to environmental stressors including climate change, toxic pollution, and gm crops. They also borrow from myth, art history, figures of speech and other cultural touchstones. In some pieces aspects of the human figure stand-in for ourselves and act out sometimes harrowing, sometimes humorous transformations which illustrate our current relationship with the natural world. In others, animals take on anthropomorphic qualities when they are given safety equipment to attempt to protect them from man-made environmental threats. In each case the union between man and nature is shown to be one of friction and discomfort with the disturbing implication that we too are vulnerable to being victimized by our destructive practices.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Nagato Iwasaki / Torso

 

Oh my goodness – can you even begin to imagine coming upon Nagato Iwasaki‘s Torso sculptures in the middle of the forest?! Talk about an unexpected surprise. Each faceless figure is created from twisted, bleached driftwood that’s scavenged, then assembled to mimic the human form complete with musculature and organs. Iwasaki uses nothing but wooden stakes to hold his creations together.

 

 

 

 

 

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Harriet’s Blue and White

 

Harriet Damave’s hand-painted porcelain cat brooches caught my eye several months ago and they’re still on my mind. Her technique – painting cobalt oxide on unglazed bisque – is rather unusual, she likens it to watercolor paintings because of the super absorbent surface. There are a number of other lovely items available in her shop – Harriet’s Blue and White – but I’m counting adding one of her pins to my jacket this fall.

 

 

 

 

 

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Horrible Adorables

 

I love thinking about what sort of inspiration and imagination goes into creating Horrible Adorables‘ hybrid creatures by husband and wife team Jordan Elise Perme and Christopher Lees. The colorful felt scales used to cover each hand-carved form means they skew more towards adorable than horrible, though there are notes of cartoonish eeriness present in each one’s humanlike expression. Each of their playful soft sculptures are brought to life in Cleveland, Ohio.

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Stak Ceramics

 

Heather and Myles Geyman built a friendship, marriage, and business – in that order. Chances are you’ve seen Stak Ceramics‘ super functional slip cast ceramic pieces before, because they’re everywhere. (They’re also often ripped off, unfortunately.) Whether it’s the kitchen tablet dock, the sprout planter phone dock, or any number of other minimally beautiful creations made in their Pittsburgh studio, you can be sure that they’ll help you live well.

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OATMEAL

 

Elise Birnbaum is a maker, skill collector, coveter of interesting objects, and founder of Pittsburgh-based OATMEAL. She works predominantly with clay and metal, creating pieces for both body and home that are inspired by simple things and made in a narrow, often neutral, color palette. I’ve been following Elise, and the creations she often shares on Instagram, for some time now and very much appreciate the way she doesn’t depend on color to make her pieces standout. (One of those knot necklaces is definitely on my birthday wish list!)

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Spacapan

 

A few months ago I had the chance to hold one of Margaret Spacapan’s perfectly shaped half-dome bowls, she had to talk me into it because I can be a klutz and they looked so delicate. I marveled at how it felt in my hands and kept thinking about how a human had created this thing. All of Spacapan‘s sculptures and forms with function are completely without flaw and attract me like a crow to something shiny. But for the time being I’ll just have to settle for the hope of someday owning one of her bowls.

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Reiko Yamamoto

 

Reiko Yamamoto is a modern ceramicist combining her skill in creating versatile, functional pottery with her experiences growing up in Japan. Eating meals meant a collection of handmade pottery rather than a matching set – a completely foreign concept – and Reiko has brought that approach to her Pittsburgh studio by creating pieces of various sizes, colors, shapes, and patterns that all work together harmoniously. The jewelry she creates has the same organic feel and presence, with a weight that feels substantial but not heavy.

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