We’ve made it to Peak Ceramics: All your friends are taking wheel-throwing classes, Brutalist planters have become status symbols, and every other upscale restaurant has commissioned its own run of handmade plates and sconces. It’s time, then, to bring some of L.A.’s ceramics scene onto your dining room table and get rid of whatever faux-stoneware mishmash has been languishing in your cupboards.
Whether you’re looking for a starter set of plates, a wedding gift or a centerpiece, we’ve compiled a list of our favorite local ceramic designers who create beautiful handmade pieces with the kitchen in mind.
A Question of Eagles
A Question of Eagles, run by Melissa Tolar and Jonathan Ballak, fulfills the modern desire for airy, earthy-toned minimalism without ever veering into boring. They fire their tableware, tumblers and pitchers to super-high temperatures in a gas kiln, which pulls the naturally occurring little polka dots of iron through the glaze. Each piece is made by hand at their Arts District studio, and the zigs and zags of their cups are made with hand-holding in mind.
Jaunty mugs have quickly become the statement bag of homewares: a relatively small investment that brings joy to the owner and broadcasts their tastes to anyone who opens their cupboard or sees their latest Instagram. BTW Ceramics, designed by Brooke T. Winfrey in her Long Beach studio, makes mugs bedecked with Technicolor splatters and winding rainbows that are very loudly not factory-made. BTW also makes plateware, if you’re into matching.
From afar, Stephanie Shih’s most recent ceramic work looks like something pulled from a grocery shelf: a bottle of Chinkiang vinegar, a gallon can of Kikkoman soy sauce, a 50-pound bag of rice.
Neenineen pieces are tubular and painted in bright, flat colors — somewhere between the Pompidou and a set of pre-K blocks. Ninon Choplin, the French ceramicist behind the line, makes mostly cups and mugs and pour-overs in a Highland Park studio, as well as slipcast pipes in primary colors.
It’s possible you’ve eaten off Humble Ceramics’ dinnerware; owned and run by Delphine Lippens, it supplies the restaurants of chefs including Josef Centeno and Michael Cimarusti. Humble’s offerings are more thoughtful, handmade iterations of designs you’d expect to find at, say, West Elm, with a mix of neutral glazes and raw edges. And they serve as an excellent base for a home collection of ceramic plates and bowls.
If you’ve been lying awake at night, anxious because your house is missing a quirky, cubist, matte blue water jug, Sarah Koik just may be the ceramic artist for you. Her architectural pitchers and vessels, which she makes in North Hollywood, employ both wheel-throwing and hand-building techniques, for an effect that’s equal parts art piece and iced tea delivery system.
Kreep is made by two friends, Kristina Dove and Phoebe Fischer; Dove builds the vases, platters and plates by hand and Fischer paints them in their downtown studio, though they insist the process is more collaborative than not. The pieces largely carry black-backgrounded scenes that often include women and plants — two motifs that could feel played out in 2019 but on Kreep’s ceramics are shockingly soulful.
This Glassell Park studio, run by Thomas Renaud and Noel Hennessy, makes tableware that will please cooks tired of minimalist dinnerware. LGS’ pieces are full of crags and ridges and spikes but never sacrifice functionality for design: These are, first and foremost, practical items. Take your pick between a cup that looks like a moon rock or a plate that looks like a flying saucer; it’s all far out.