Experimental pieces and commissions.

Adam Silverman, Studio Director at Heath Ceramics

To identify yourself as a potter in this day and age sounds strangely old-fashioned. A ceramicist, yes; a ceramic artist, sure. And yet there really is no other way to describe Adam Silverman, the Los Angeles–based studio director for Heath Ceramics, who jokes that he keeps a banker’s hours behind the wheel he runs from the back of Heath’s Commune-designed retail facility. Silverman, of course, wasn’t always a potter by trade — he was first a RISD-trained architect and then a fashion entrepreneur who founded the late-’90s fashion label X-Large with his college roommate. But he always had a nagging feeling that he was ignoring his calling. “For me, it was a hobby. If you invited me to your house, I would bring you a pot instead of a bottle of wine,” Silverman told me when I visited his studio earlier this year. Finally in 2002, he attended a summer ceramics program at Alfred University and went about setting up a proper studio in Atwater Village. “I basically gave myself a year, and I have kids, so I couldn’t fuck around. When you do it like that, getting up every day to do the work, your progress is relatively immediate. I had also stepped into this weird vacuum where there was nobody else here doing this kind of thing.”

By “this kind of thing,” Silverman means pottery, but in truth, there is nobody anywhere who turns out the kind of experimental vessels that he specializes in, all wildly textured surfaces and slithery, primordial glazes. Such an unconventional aesthetic might at first seem at odds with Heath, a more streamlined brand with a half-century of tradition behind it. “All of my stuff is a pure expression of process — pieces that are fired many times and ground down in between or glazes that move and freeze when they’re cooled or layers of things that get thicker and thicker and change color,” says Silverman. “When I first got involved, I would get comments from the people up at the Heath factory in Sausalito like, ‘I can help you fix that.’ But I think they’ve come around.” He was hired in 2008 by Heath owners Catherine Bailey and Robin Petravic, and these days, anyone stopping by the Heath shop can spy Silverman in the back, churning out small-run production pieces, custom work on commission, and weird ceramic experiments that may one day find life as either of the first two.

Lately those experiments have revolved around a project Silverman is doing in collaboration with the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth, Texas. “There’s an iconic Louis Kahn building that’s been there since 1972, and they’re building a new Renzo Piano addition next door. There’s a Tadao Ando building near the premises as well. I’m harvesting materials from the construction site and making a body of work from that. I don’t know what I’m going to make or where it will go once it’s done, but the project is basically about how do I use these materials — clays, wood, stones, water, etc. — to make a body of work that somehow reflects the interaction of these three architects, on this site, at this time.” Silverman is keeping a blog detailing the project; check it out here, and keep reading for a glimpse at the potter’s process.