The audio file for this article was produced by the Ceramic Arts Network staff and not read by the author.

Ceramics Monthly: What role does color play in your work?

Sara Ballek: Color is the connector. When I bring a form and pattern together, they begin to make sense once the color is applied. Color gives each pot its personality. I love using color because it creates a conversation between the piece and the user. Colors may remind a person of someone or something they love, such as a favorite season or era. Colors may also simply make them feel good.

Coming up with various color combinations for my forms feels like I am putting together a puzzle. When the color is added, it feels complete. I think of “Color” as the album and each piece I make is a song. Each piece is distinct on its own, one-of-a-kind, but they can all pair together and be recognized as one body of work, made by the artist.

1 Retro Blossom Serving Bowl, 8¾ in. (22 cm) in diameter, red earthenware clay, slip, underglaze, glaze, fired to cone 4 in oxidation, 2022.

CM: What do you see as the current trends in ceramics and where do you see yourself in that field?

SB: I see a lot of playfulness emerging from all corners of the clay world. I think many artists are continuing to push things in new and different directions and allowing themselves to make work that feels authentic to them and who they are. Whether it’s intentional or subconscious, there’s evidence of the artist and their expression in the work.

Through social media, we see a lot more of people’s making process behind the scenes, rather than just the final result. I think that can influence how I see the work as a whole, in each stage, and not just the finished product. There are incredible things happening in ceramics, and the common theme I am seeing is that the work feels more playful and genuinely individualistic.


2 Margarita cups, to approximately 4 in. (10 cm) in height, red earthenware clay, slip, underglaze, glaze, fired to cone 4 in oxidation, 2022.

Of course, there will always be trends in art that run parallel with trends in interior design. For a while, I often saw white glaze with iron speckles on tableware or organic statement pieces made from red or brown clay and left unglazed. Trends tend to recycle themselves and have a rebirth, so lately I see a lot of color and maximalism making a comeback in the interior-design and fashion-design world. I think it’s always existed all around us and appeals to many people, but right now it’s in the spotlight and receiving positive attention, which makes it all the more desirable.

I see my work as playful and unique, yet it’s very familiar. My work is influenced by my appreciation for the 1960s and 1970s, and my love for the generations before me. The homes of my elders were like time capsules of those eras and are where many of my memories live. I think that while my work may not always be trendy in the present time, it will continue relating to a time, place, or person associated with bright colors and bold patterns. Having unique items that remind us of a place or person provides a sense of connection. It’s important that I create work that feels authentic to me while bringing joy and providing a sense of connection to something special for its collectors.

Learn more on Instagram @saraballek_ceramics.