Ceramics Are an Ancient Craft for the Modern Day

My childhood home was filled with wall weavings and hand-turned pottery crafted by my mother, an artist-turned-art instructor who honed her craft in the 1970s. Having not yet grown to appreciate the art of handmade goods, I had shrugged them off as “weird,” instead turning my attention to more youthful objets d’art: my Lisa Frank Trapper Keeper and Hello Kitty pencil case. 

Today, I have a greater appreciation for handcrafted goods—especially ceramics. After their heyday in the ’70s, the ancient craft of pottery is in the midst of a comeback. The New York Times style section and Vogue magazine recently devoted coverage to the trend, and handmade ceramics are showing up at high-end fashion retailers (Steven Alan) and modern home goods chains (West Elm). 

Handmade pottery can be spotted alongside upscale clothing and home goods at Twin Cities stores such as Mille, Gray Home + Lifestyle, and Wilson & Willy’s. Mille carries ceramics by local artist Laura Vest Klein alongside its internationally sourced selection of designer clothing, accessories, and home goods. North Loop storefront Wilson & Willy’s, which sells thoughtful, often hand-crafted goods for men, women, and the home, carries pottery by ceramicists across the U.S. “Ceramics are the ultimate example of form and function,” says Rita Mehta, a retail consultant for Wilson & Willy’s and founder of the American Edit, a website focusing on American-made brands and products. “They’re a very accessible piece of handmade art—you can get ceramic pieces for $10 to thousands of dollars. It’s an easy way to add something that’s handmade and special into your home without making a huge investment.”

Longstanding craft institutions, such as the Minneapolis-based American Craft Council, are capitalizing on the maker movement by spotlighting the new wave of ceramic artists. Last year, the organization added a new section to its annual American Craft Council Show, dubbed Hip Pop, which showcases goods, including ceramics, by a curated group of up-and-coming artisans from all over the country. “When I used to think of ceramics, I thought of brown,” says Pam Diamond, the council’s director of marketing and communication. “For many years, studio pottery become rote, and everything looked alike. I love that the artists of today are experimenting with different colors, glazes, and forms in ceramics.” 

Mehta says that the movement toward handmade home goods is a descendent of the natural food movement—after all, pottery has been used to eat and drink since ancient times. “Ceramics serve a practical purpose,” she says. “The majority of ceramics either hold food, drinks, or plants.”

Consider me convinced—now I start each day by sipping locally roasted coffee out of a hand-turned mug.

Photo by 2nd Truth Photography


Jahna’s May Style Picks:


Photo Courtesy of Kimberlee Joy Roth

Haute Dish
The work of Minnesota ceramicist Kimberlee Joy Roth—such as this porcelain platter—combines form and function, doubling as wall decor and food vessels. $48 @ kimberleejoyroth.com


Photo Courtesy of A MANO

Buttoned Up
Ceramics aren’t limited to home décor—clay is finding its way into jewelry, including these colorful earrings by local potter Elizabeth Pechacek. $18 per pair @ weshopamano.com


PHOTO COURTESY OF E SMITH

Burnt Offerings
Dress up your incense with a handmade incense hut dash by Minneapolis-based E. Smith Workshop. $36 @ esmithworkshop.com

Check out our spread of ceramic products from Minnesota makers.

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