Juggling kids, dogs and a rock band, an L.A. ceramist creates one-of-a-kind objects at home
Even after nearly 20 years, ceramist Meredith Metcalf can still remember her first entrepreneurial endeavors.
“Ever since I was little, I was making things and selling them,” she recalled. “I made hemp jewelry at a young age and I would sell shells on Balboa Island.”
“I bought my potter’s wheel with my crochet hat money,” she continued. “I look back and laugh that I am doing what I was doing as a kid.”
Decades later, she still uses the electric Pacifica potter’s wheel in her studio behind the Highland Park home she shares with husband David, sons Lee, 2, and Errol, 5, and their three dogs.
Metcalf, 35, began making pots when she was 16 years old at Woodbridge High School in Irvine.
“I was there all the time,” she said. “I was obsessed with pottery. I was just getting good when I moved to L.A.”
Unglazed petal pots rest on a shelf in Meredith Metcalf’s Highland Park pottery studio.(Christina House / For The Times)
The artist in her studio.(Christina House / For The Times)
Metcalf creates a lamp base on her electric potter’s wheel in her Highland Park studio.(Christina House / For The Times)
The beginning stages of a lamp base.(Christina House / For The Times)
Metcalf works on a raw clay circle pot at home as son Errol, 5, looks on.(Christina House / For The Times)
Metcalf etches a lamp base by hand.(Christina House / For The Times)
Turquoise vessels.(Christina House / For The Times)
Metcalf’s studio.(Christina House / For The Times)
Wildflowers and succulents from Metcalf’s garden magnify the simplicity of her blue and yellow etched vases.(Christina House / For The Times)
A yellow etched vase.(Christina House / For The Times)
Succulents find a home in Meredith Metcalf’s vessels.(Christina House / For The Times)
Handmade ceramic Petal pots by Metcalf on display at the Lawson-Fenning showroom on Melrose.(Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)
Artist Meredith Metcalf in her home studio in Highland Park.(Christina House / For The Times)
After working as a model and actress and performing with her husband in the bands Bodies of Water and Music Go Music, Metcalf returned to pottery when Errol was 18 months old.
“I loaded up my van like a gypsy wagon with tons of work clanking around in the back and they took it all,” she said of her relationship with Lawson-Fenning. “I’m so grateful for this arrangement. They don’t make orders for specific things. Every few months, I bring them a load of what I felt like making at the time.”
There is something hypnotic about watching Metcalf throw pots on the wheel in her studio, a simple space that extends outdoors to a covered patio.
Although there is a flurry of activity – three dogs, a feverish Errol who crawls through the dog door to greet her, and David next door mixing a CD in the music studio -- she calmly produces a flawless lamp base in minutes.
Hers is a solitary occupation in the middle of a lively household.
“As a mom, everything is so halting,” she said with a smile. “But I don’t know anything else.”
The shelves of her studio are filled with a diverse selection of ceramic vessels including vases, bowls, containers and lamps.
Juggling kids, music, dogs and ceramics, she has decided to sell her work as she makes it with prices ranging from $70 for a petite pinch bowl to more than $700 for a new line of lamps set to debut this month.
Her containers are durable and beautiful and have a tactile quality that makes you want to reach out and touch them. Pushed petals extend from the surfaces of some pots while circle cutouts leave impressions in others. Their beauty makes you forget that for Metcalf, they are all about function. “I like making things that you can bring to a dinner party,” she said while fingering a low, wide etched bowl that could be used for salad or pasta.
That functional quality drew Glenn Lawson, co-founder of Lawson-Fenning, to represent her.
“Her work embodies the form and function of Southern California ceramics,” he said. “She is elevating the style factor of everyday pieces. Her bold colors and simple geometries speak to our ethos of loving the things you use and live with.”
Metcalf hopes it’s a sentiment that will continue long after this particular moment in time.
“I used to feel like whatever I was pursuing was what I’d do forever,” she said. “Seeing how my ceramics has come back to me in such a fully realized way gives me hope that I will just keep going around and around filling out these parts my whole life.”
“I’m a person who makes things,” Metcalf said, almost to herself. “I think this is what I was supposed to be doing.”
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