I know very little about ceramics and glass. There. I have said it right up front.
But I like to think I have a certain radar for the artistically innovative, and one place where I did not expect to see it was during my inaugural visit last week to the annual New York Ceramics and Glass Fair.
But I was wrong. Very wrong. Talk about cool---it was there in abundance.
Sure there were oodles of blue and white Chinese and Delft export ware, Majolica, Staffordshire Dogs and traditional glass. Dealer Lynda Willauer Antiques had one of the most arresting booths of this sort.
Traditional Ceramics were beautifully displayed in the booth of Lynda Willauer Antiques.
But there were several dealers that showcased work by contemporary artisans. By far my favorite was the artists represented by Ferrin Contemporary. Leslie Ferrin had two booths at the fair and each was filled with edgy, thought-provoking pieces.
What I especially loved about her curation, aptly dubbed “Made in China; The New Export Ware,” is the demonstrated exchange between eastern and western artists and markets. The works shown reflect a growing cross-cultural collaboration.
As she explained to me, western artists are travelling to China to produce ceramic work using traditional Chinese methods and thereby bringing forward a new generation of export ware.
One of her artists, Caroline Cheng, works with fabric and porcelain. She creates intricately, handmade porcelain butterflies-each different-that are individually sewn on a Chinese dress. At a distance, her work simply looks like a garment. It is only on close inspection that the butterflies are revealed.
The work of Caroline Cheng is most fascinating upon close inspection.Cheng says the idea came from living in China for ten years where she experienced the many varied nuances of life there. She likens her work to the Chinese people: “From afar, people can look at China and see a country with people almost looking the same. But if you look closely, China has many complex personalities, many different cultures mixed into one large pot.”
Another artist in Ferrin’s stable is Paul Scott. Scott showed two series. In his latest work, Scott rescues antique fragments, restoring them in a collage-like fashion using traditional conservation methods to join the elements, proving that the whole is more than the sum of its parts.
Scott marries antique fragments using traditional conservation methods
In 2013, Scott began a body of work called American Scenery where he applied current American imagery to antique china pieces bringing the past forward and examining how we have shaped our landscape. One certainly doesn’t expect to see fracking depicted on china.
Scott depicts fracking on a ca 1860 Ironstone Platter
Scott continues his critical eye for the contemporary with a riff on Damien Hirst with his “Cow in the Meadow after Damien Hirst” platter.
Taking a cue from Damien Hirst, Paul Scott created “Cow in the Meadow.”
Ancient Chinese methods and contemporary forms also are melded in the work of Vipoo Srivilasa, another artist in Ferrin’s Made in China exhibition
Srivilasa says his work was inspired by an eighteenth-century Meissen Snowball Blossoms Teapot. The Meissen piece was decorated with hundreds of hand-painted, three dimensional blossoms.
This teapot reproduced by Meissen after one created in 1739 is much like the one that inspired Vipoo Srivilasa
While on a residency in Jingdezhen, China, Srivilasa met a famous flower maker, just one of the many types of artisans who engage in producing traditional porcelain sculpture in China. Dubbed The Patience Flower Series, the flower maker fashions various patterns drawn by Srivilasa and adorns them on bear molds, another meeting of old and new.
Three works from Vipoo Srivilasa’s “The Patience Flower Series.”
Finally, Artist Sin-ying Ho, also represented by Ferrin Contemporary and part of the Made In China exhibition, is worth a closer look. Sin-ying Ho combines traditional Chinese images drawn from nature with manmade symbols, signs, words and logos. Some of her work is notable for its large scale, seen in the studio shot of her below.
Sin-ying Ho combines traditional Chinese imagery from nature with manmade symbols, signs, words and logos using classical Chinese methods.
Like Vipoo Srivilasa, Sin-ying Ho studied ceramics in Jingdezhen, China. Ho, working at the Jingdezhen Ceramics Institute, learned classical Chinese techniques of throwing, painting and enameling. Now based in New York, she uses these techniques to create a mash-up of traditional Chinese culture with contemporary global ideas and imagery.
Ready to give ceramics a second look? While I think the traditional forms are classics and will always be chic, this new work is certainly captivating.
To see more, why don’t you follow Leslie Ferrin on Instagram at her
Photo credits: Teapot photo from the Meissen website
Works from “The Patience Flower Series” from the Ferrin Contemporary website.
Studio shot of Sin-ying Ho from her website.
All other photos by Lynn Byrne