Textured Abstractions – Ceramic Vases by Kathy Erteman

Ceramic Vases by Kathy Erteman 1

Kathy Erteman is an internationally-known ceramicist who approaches her craft in a dual way. On the one hand, she manually produces minimal and textured sculptural-looking vessels and on the other she creates tableware designs for companies, like Crate & Barrel and Tiffany, who manufacture them on a large scale. Regardless of this duality, all of her designs connect to the legacy of early modernist European artists who experimented with ceramics, such as Gertrude and Otto Natzler, Lucie Rie, and Hans Coper, and are also inspired by the centuries-long tradition of Japanese and Chinese ceramics.

Erteman, now based in New York City, got introduced to all sorts of crafts at an early age and later on perfected the art of ceramic making while coursing a BFA program at California State University (Long Beach) and later on studying with the widely known ceramist Adrian Saxe at UCLA. After those experiences, Kathy continued to enrich her craft through internships and art residencies in regions ranging from Israel to Singapore and India, and she has also traveled to Yunnan in Southwest China where she had worked next to Tibetan artisan potters. Notably, Kathy has also been devoted to sharing her knowledge as she has taught at Parsons School of Design and currently teaches at Greenwich House Pottery in New York City.

In her studio, Kathy works in series and views ceramic making as a “trial and error process.” Next to creating wall pieces and all sorts of functional objects, a substantial part of her practice revolves around the design of vessels of different shapes, mainly ovals and ellipses, that evoke the human figure which, in the artist’s words, she “abstractly translates into a minimalist form.” However, even if the forms and the black and cream colour palette of her vessels are minimal in nature, their surfaces are rich in volumes reminiscent of the tradition of geometric abstraction seen in the works of 20th century painters like Josef Albers.

While Erteman’s oeuvre comprises a cohesive body of work linked together by her signature style, recently, she has started to “surrender to the process and allows the clay to speak more freely,” something that is only possible through a complete mastery of her craft.


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Written by Constanza Ontiveros