Published in 2016 by Thames & Hudson, Clay is the first book by Sydney based art curator and writer Amber Creswell Bell, where she gathers 53 ceramic artisans in a beautiful 257 pages, hard-cover edition.
Clay presents us with a number of ceramic artisans and potters who approach clay in different ways, from the traditional utilitarian pots to more experimental work. However, we could say that the selection of participating artisans is clearly tilted towards Europe and Australia (almost 60% of artists in the book are Australians, and 30% are Europeans. No mention to Latin America, and only scarce mentions to North America, Asia, and the Middle East). Considering the title doesn’t suggest a demographic criteria, it would be more appropriate to suggest that the book showcases what is happening in Australia and Europe rather than “what is happening in the studios around the world” (2016, 8), as the author suggests. Regardless of this curatorial bias, we welcome and appreciate being introduced to the fascinating work of the ceramic makers who have been included in this edition. An absolute delight to read.
What’s the book about?
Clay is a fun and easy to read book, with a selection of 53 artisans (and artists), some very well established and some emerging, who work with clay as a medium to make pots and other objects. From utilitarian cups and bowls to large scale sculptures, what unifies all these different practices is the material: clay. Creswell Bell introduces us to each of these 53 makers with a short but meaningful description of their practice, the key elements characterising their work, and some personal reflections by each of the makers.
The book shows a considerable variety of approaches to clay work, the use of glazes, shapes, dimensions and colour. A snapshot of what’s going on at some ceramic studios today, and how the work in ceramics has reached new boundaries in recent years.
The writing has quite an intimate tone as it talks about the sentimental relationship of each maker with their practice. It does not cover technical descriptions nor goes very deep into the specific techniques used by each artist. But this could be taken as an opportunity for each of us to do our own research.
The author states that this book intends to show not necessarily what is happening at a national gallery level, but rather what’s happening in the studios. Hence the personal approach she has with each artist.
What do we like about this book?
We find that Clay is an honest project, wanting to open the door of ceramic studios to the public. It does not pretend to be a technical book nor act as a merchandising platform for the artists. It’s rather simple and concrete, with high quality photos and beautiful images all over.
Creswell Bell’s book is a great introduction to some clay makers, even though we personally think she could have widened the demographic range when selecting the artists. Lastly, we missed the author’s definition of ‘ceramic artisan’, as in comparison to ‘ceramic artist’, as both terms are used indistinctly along the book.
Where can you find this book?
We got this book at Brunswick Bound but it can also be found in many bookstores around Melbourne and Australia. It can also be found in the usual online bookshops like Booktopia and Amazon Australia.
Clay: Contemporary Ceramic Artisans
Publisher: Thames & Hudson
Publication date: October 2016
Hardcover: 257 pages