We start out each new year with the selection process for the Ceramics Monthly Emerging Artist competition, which is open to artists worldwide who have been pursuing a career in clay for ten years or less. A total of 599 artists responded to the call, and the editorial staff reviewed each entry to select 24 individuals as this year’s emerging artists. The robust interest in and response to this year’s contest reinforced for us how many people are developing their creative voices using clay as a material.

In addition to assessing the submissions based on career length and photo quality, we evaluated them for technical skill, conceptual development, and synthesis of ideas and inspiration into an individualized, consistent body of work. We judged whether the work demonstrated awareness of current trends and contemporary context, and we discussed how it engaged us as viewers. 

The works by the 2022 Ceramics Monthly Emerging Artists, a few of which are shown here, explore a wide variety of ideas in distinct styles. 1 Jean White’s Future Fossils, to 9¼ in. (23.5 cm) in height, Parian slip, black porcelain, fired to 2228°F (1220°C) in an electric kiln, 2021. Photo: Mark Reeves.

This annual contest gives us an amazing opportunity to see what drives artists earlier in their careers and what they are investigating, both what they are forming and what is forming them. These artists’ values are quite diverse, as are their modes of expression. The submissions covered every broad category and subcategory from utilitarian and sculptural vessels to figurative, architectonic and abstract sculptures to installations. Subjects that threaded through many submissions included responding to the isolation and uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, expressing concern about as well as reverence for the environment, and exploring complex human relationships through both animal and abstract forms. Humor, comfort, self care, a longing to connect with others, and generosity were also prevalent themes. Formally, we noted that artists were interested in investigating color relationships, drawn and patterned surfaces, and haptic qualities.

2 Galen Sedberry’s ewer, 8½ in. (22 cm) in height, North Carolina stoneware, rice-hull ash glaze, wood fired to cone 10, 2021. 3 Katie Bosley Sabin’s Rhythmic Pillars, 18 in. (46 cm) in length, high-fire porcelain, 2021.

Looking to the entries this year, I was energized to see the way these artists embraced idiosyncrasy. By that, I mean they remained open to a wide range of possibilities, regardless of hierarchies, and blend elements of different art forms and styles, varying influences and technologies, and a broad range of ceramic and non-ceramic materials together to create their work. They have thought deeply about what they value, about the world around them, and have found their individual voices to express their perspectives.  

The ways that people learn about, understand, and view the world evolves constantly. This is also true in the smaller sphere of the ceramics studio. Those starting in ceramics in the last five to ten years have unique experiences and a distinct frame of reference compared to earlier generations of artists; the tools they have at their disposal are different, too. 

4 Jane Margarette’s Miserable With Carefulness, 9 ft. 9 in. (2.9 m) in length, ceramics, glaze, fired to cone 5 in oxidation, gold leaf, 2022. Photo: Matthew Kroening.

As we reviewed the entries, we wondered about the artists’ perspectives on a range of topics. After selecting the finalists, we asked each of them a few questions to get a glimpse into their thought processes, outlooks, and values. I hope you find their points of view, expressed both in words and in their artwork, to be as fascinating as we do.

- Jessica Knapp, Editor
Topics: Ceramic Artists