Bakehouse Art Complex is proud to present Miami Ceramics & Pottery, a sale of works from notable local artists, two of whom hail from the Bakehouse Art Complex community. The three artists featured in the Fresh Goods Gallery sale have not only demonstrated extraordinary skill in their artistic practices, but also have also helped shape our region’s cultural community through their commitment to shepherding the next generation of local artists through arts education and community building.
With a career that spans over forty years, James Herring has focused on creating functional sculptures. Guided by principles of beauty, community, use, intuition, and truth to materials, he intends to create objects that not only have significant visual presences, but also can be used in daily life. He believes that functional artworks can create “transformative experiences” in their ability to be interacted with, touched, and held. In addition to a prolific art practice, he has spent decades imparting his skills to the public as a teacher, most recently at the University of Miami, Ceramic League of Miami, and his own studio Red Herring Pottery in Coral Gables.
What influences your work?
My work has been influenced by the Japanese Mingei movement principles of beauty, intuition, use, community, and truth to materials. Mingei or (“art of the people”) was developed as a reaction to the industrialization of Japan and had kinship with, and itself was influenced by, the “Arts and Crafts” movement in Great Britain. Any formal considerations of form are subordinate to the principals listed above in that those concepts are learned early on and then in a way “forgotten” or embedded within the practice to the point where they are no longer at the forefront of the experience of making. A similar phenomenon that occurs when learning a skill such as making work on a potter’s wheel. Once you have mastered the skill you are no longer thinking about the mechanics when executing a piece. Intuition can play a much bigger role and does in my work.
The stoppered jug, one of which is featured in the sale, is a recurring object in your practice. What inspires you to create these?
The stoppered jug forms reference a form commonly associated with the American South, both in an historical context and in popular culture. Dozens of films depicting early American history include this kind of jug filled with moonshine liquor being hefted over shoulder with the protagonist taking a big slug. Once these types of jugs were supplanted by industrially manufactured ceramics and glass, they became relegated to tourist souvenirs eventually finding their way to the type of roadside attractions I frequented with my family while growing up in Florida. This American folk art pottery is of interest to me and I apply my own sensibility and interpretation to these forms. How these forms may be utilized in a contemporary setting is something I think about and suggest they may be used in various fermentation processes.
What inspired by the blue vase featured in the sale?
The vase form chosen is part of a series of vase shapes I am exploring in connection with my “Language of Flowers” project. LOF is a concept to bring together artists groups working in clay with Ikebana groups working with that traditional flower arrangement practice to create vases and arrangements that are then auctioned with the funds going to groups combating gun violence.
A pioneer in the Miami arts ecosystem, Ellie Schniederman may be most known for developing artist-centered spaces. She began her artistic career at the Grove House, an artist-run space in Coconut Grove. When the space closed in the early 1980s, she later founded ArtCenter/South Florida (now Oolite Arts) and led the organization for ten years. Concurrently, Faith Atlass, Helene Pancoast, and Dr. David & Nathalie Nadel from the Grove House founded Bakehouse Art Complex at our historic bakery building. Ellie dedicated her artistic practice to developing functional clay works that were inspired by her travels to Greece, India, and China.
Born in Ukraine, Gerbi Tsesarskaia’s artistic career began when she moved to Florida in the early 1990s. Her ceramics work is inspired by the interconnectedness between humans and nature and influenced by the drastic cultural changes she experienced when moving from her native Russia to Hungary and later the United States. In addition to her work as an independent artist, she has taught classes at University of Miami, Florida Atlantic University, and Miami International University of Art and Design, while also offering private classes from her studio at the Bakehouse Art Complex.
Why do you prefer to work with porcelain?
The idea of purity, transparency, and flexibility is a manifestation of the qualities I personally strive to develop in myself. The refractoriness of porcelain and its ability to withstand incredible heat, combined with the conditions during firing itself, are so drastic and harsh; and, for me, they are metaphors for life experiences. We go through the process of being molded and come through the fires of life together.
What inspires some of your more conceptual pieces?
You will notice that most of the sculptural forms I make have rounded bottoms, with no stable footing. The idea behind it is that I got to this country at an adult age (I was 32) and I had already grown up in a different culture. I had no roots that would bind me. In a way, that made me more vulnerable. In another way, it made me more flexible, dynamic, and capable of movement and not being rooted in one particular set of cultural beliefs.
You have been a Bakehouse resident for 13 years, which makes you one of its longest term residents. How has the Bakehouse evolved over time?
The Bakehouse has now moved towards supporting very young artists, which is absolutely wonderful. Because Miami is in a vulnerable place, where people don’t actually know how to move forward with their career, this support is crucial. What I also like is how Acting Director Cathy Leff finds ways to support artists who are very well established in their professional careers, not only because it can help them continue to flourish, but also because it allows those artists to give a lot of feedback and support to the younger ones who are just coming in.