New Work by Matt Merkel-Hess

In our Saturday Selects column last week, we made mention of “More Material,” the now-closed exhibition at Salon 94 Bowery in New York, curated by the London-based fashion designer Duro Olowu. What we didn’t mention was the bonkers amount of new work Los Angeles–based ceramicist Matt Merkel Hess created for the show and shop (not all of which was included in the exhibition). Merkel Hess is best known for the ceramic copies he makes of everyday objects; for his 2013 show at Salon 94 Freemans, the designer rendered vintage Dust Busters, Super Soakers, stand mixers and the like in glazed porcelain. Here, he focuses on three distinct forms.

The designer explains: “The Porcelain Novelty Ears are a copy of a large plastic novelty ear that I saw and purchased last summer. I made the mold and began casting them in porcelain. I’ve made copies of other novelties I love, such as porcelain rubber chickens, but the act of taking a cheap plastic gag item into glazed porcelain changes the humor quite a bit. The Flip Flops, which are in both porcelain and stoneware, are a continuation of an idea from 2013. I made one pair of flip flops for my show ‘Hereafter’ at Salon 94 Freemans, which I glazed with a American version of the Japanese shino glaze. I was interested in the combination of flip flops and shino — two Japanese ideas that were brought to the U.S. after WWII.

“Finally, the West African Water Kettles are a copy of these amazing plastic water kettles that are used in West Africa. This idea was suggested by Duro — he’d noticed some of these kettles for sale in London and thought it might align with my plastic-into-ceramic mode of working. I was very excited by these kettles but it was a challenge to recreate the vibrant plastic bands of colors. The form itself is rather pedestrian too, a sort of common kettle form that you might find in metal or ceramic. So these became a very interesting challenge: a ceramic/metal form taken into plastic, which I then copied in plaster and brought back into porcelain. The result is a sort of teapot or kettle form that is both functional and can tell an interesting story about how vessel forms are reinterpreted and reimagined in different parts of the world.”

Check out examples of Merkel Hess’s new work below, then go here to view some of his older work.