Ian Anderson, ceramicist

If you find it at all impressive that Philadelphia-based ceramicist Ian Anderson is releasing the debut collection we’re presenting here at the tender age of just 23, consider this: Anderson has been developing the collection’s asymmetrical, highly sophisticated forms in his head ever since he was a high-school student back in Mission Viejo, California. He just never had the studio set-up to realize them until now. “I got into ceramics in high school, then moved to Santa Cruz for college where they had this hippie-style coop in the forest and a big studio with an old gas kiln,” says Anderson. “You never knew how things were going to come out, and I ended up getting a bunch of mushy-looking pieces.” After college, Anderson moved to Philly to become a menswear buyer at Urban Outfitters, and when seeking a hobby to focus on outside of his 9-5, he happened upon the city’s infamous Clay Studio. “I got hooked up with a work/study program there where I work eight hours every Sunday and get studio space for free. It’s amazing.”

Anderson creates the complicated, off-kilter shapes by fabricating individual plaster molds for each piece, and though geometric ceramics are having a bit of a moment right now, Anderson didn’t set out to create something trendy. “It was more about deconstructing something to make it unexpected,” he says. “There are so many mundane things that you do on a daily basis, like drinking coffee or eating cereal, and the point of what I’m doing is to make you pay more attention to those activities. If it makes you feel a little bit weird when you’re using a piece, or it makes you think about how you feel when you’re using it — that makes it more interesting.” We caught up with Anderson to find out a bit more about his process below.June03_LC_1018492June03_LC_101943

Describe your most recent project and how it was made:
“My most recent project was definitely my most in-depth exploration into ceramics so far. It took me about 8 months to set up and involved making the forms I had imagined in my head, pouring the plaster molds for each of them, and casting each piece. Having a pretty basic ceramics background, this was a huge learning curve for me as well as a pretty big undertaking to make about 25 of these molds. All of the pieces in this project were made through slip casting, a really useful technique for what I’m doing, where liquid clay is poured into plaster molds. Because the plaster is so porous it sucks the water out of the clay until you have a hardened form.”

“This project is all about form for me and a lot of these pieces were made to challenge what kinds of forms we use everyday. In the black and white pieces this is especially evident. As much as it might make you uncomfortable to think about eating cereal out of a bowl that looks cut in half, it’s still just as possible and just as easy as any bowl from Ikea.”

Describe your next project and how you’re currently making it:
“I’m adapting my Orvar mug above into a pitcher for the Sight Unseen Shop, but other than that I’m kind of all over the place right now. I haven’t had much time to make new things while I’ve been working on the last project, but now that I have everything set up I need to take a look at all of the little sketches I drew over the last few months. I really get a rush when learning new processes and materials so I think I’ll try to incorporate metal, plastic and some electrical components into the next thing I do. Ceramics will still be the focus, but I don’t want to limit what I make to cups and bowls.”

Okeefe GrantCartoon
Tell us one thing that’s been inspiring you lately and why:
“My brother-in-law has been one of the biggest influences on me when it comes to art. I’ve known him for a really long time and every time I talk to him my mind is opened up a little more. At first his work comes off as super political or crude, but looking at it as a whole you realize that he has such a critical eye and he is pushing us to ask questions and challenge what’s ‘normal.’ To me, that’s refreshing. He is an artist that goes by the name of Mr. Fish and these are some of my favorite cartoons from him. He has explored all sorts of mediums and subject matters though, so there’s so much more than this!”

Show us your studio and tell us what you like about it:
“Right now I’m working out of The Clay Studio in Philadelphia. It’s a pretty great set-up in a really old building filled with weird, crafty old ladies.”