Pattern is complex for me. Although I crave pattern in the ceramic objects I collect, I struggle to incorporate surface decoration onto my own pieces. Once I’ve made a sleek, clean-lined piece, the fear of ruining it with glaze or a bit of carving is debilitating. Sharing an interest in two opposing styles (bare clay and over-the-top embellished) has always made me feel wishy-washy, until I read about the interior design trend of maximal minimalism. This style, with its oxymoron title, embraces minimalism’s simple shapes with trim lines in combination with maximalism’s pop of bold color or streak of lavish pattern. The trend is very much about making a statement, which I love in a world where personal expression is on the rise and our culture is only becoming more and more visually oriented. Potters have been ahead of this design trend for as long as I can remember. Because ceramics is essentially a three-part process— forming, glazing, firing—it is inherent that a piece can exhibit more than one style, and do so successfully.

1 Bashar and Roula Jarjour's Rainbow 3, 10 in. (25 cm) in height, porcelain, underglaze, sgraffito, fired to cone 6, 2023.

Although I’m not sure this new style trend will cure my surface-decorating fears, it does appear on several pieces in the Pottery Making Illustrated readership contest “Pattern Play.” Look no further than Kimberly LaVonne’s piece, Maiz, a sleek matte-black bowl streaked with a bright yellow band of corn kernels around its midsection. Or, Bashar and Roula Jarjour’s deep-bellied vessel covered from top to bottom with a black-and-white geometric pattern except for an explosion of rainbow-colored disks flanking the rim (1). Or, Jerónimo Morquecho’s curved cylinder enveloped with a meticulously hand-painted pattern. 

Further parallels to interior design styles emerge in other patterns within the contest, including a nod to Mid-Century Modern in Jennifer Rosseter’s Charley Harper– inspired 3 a.m. (owl) (3), Yoshi Fujii’s sake set, and Brenton Duhan’s tripod-footed mugs. The wildly popular wallpaper trend can be found in Mandy Henebry’s stacked canisters, Don Reynold’s wine set (2), and Charlotte Middleton’s multi-piece still life. 

2 Don Reynolds’ Wine set, 3¼ in. (8 cm) in width (each), mid-range porcelain, underglazes, wax, glaze, fired in oxidation to cone 6, 2022. Photo: Jane Neuss Cohen. 3 Jennifer Rosseter’s 3 a.m. (Owl), 12 in. (30 cm) in width, handbuilt English Grolleg porcelain paper clay, underglaze, glaze, fired to cone 5 and cone 04, 22K gold luster fired to cone 018, 2023.

The patterns do not stop with the contest in this issue, which focuses on surface decoration and glazing. Didem Mert returns to show us how to transfer paper collage designs to ceramic surface decorations. Sam Briegel, inspired by fashion design, creates dessert plates with scallop-patterned rims. Michael A. Hall carves, sprays, resists, and lusters to build up luscious and vibrant layers on his teabowls. Amy Irish embraces paper cutouts, underglazes, and texture-making tools to fill her blooming bowls. 

To all the potters hesitant about pattern, glaze, and mark making, but who deeply want to embrace the fun of the process, try exploring this issue with a sense of fearlessness and discovery. Cheers! 

Holly Goring, Managing Editor
Topics: Ceramic Artists