When we think of ceramicists at work, we often conjure romantic visions of noble artisans wearing clay-streaked aprons and strenuously channeling their artistic magic behind a potter’s wheel. Which is mostly true, to a point, and yet — what happens once that noble artisan also has to figure out how to run a thriving, growing business? That’s the situation Forrest Lewinger found himself in last year, two years into his Workaday Handmade line and unsure of how to handle its unremitting success. When we featured Lewinger back in August of 2014, he was a recent art-school grad with a day job who’d stumbled into a ceramics line partly by accident. But since then, his collection “has been growing and getting interest from places I never imagined,” he says. “I get interior decorators from places like Salt Lake City or Minneapolis or small towns in Michigan contacting me, having no idea how they’ve found me. And then places like Barneys and Anthropolgie. I’ve spent the past year trying to figure out how to make it all work.”
Part of that has been deciding when to say no — when people request large versions of his meticulously-painted Egg Vases or Maurice Bowls, for example — while part has been attempting to make his offerings simpler without losing the quality that makes them exciting to his fans. Then part has been expanding his operation drastically to handle the increasing demand for his wares, including hiring two assistants to help him with glazing and decorating and moving, seven months ago, into a much bigger studio in Ridgewood, Queens, which is where we visited him in the fall, with photographer Paul Barbera. Lewinger gave us the scoop that day on how Workaday Handmade is changing, how his personal practice is evolving, and what new types of objects we can expect from him next. Read the story in the captions below, then head over to Barbera’s site Where They Create to see even more images from our photo shoot.
Like many creatives we’ve interviewed before, Forrest Lewinger began his Workaday Handmade ceramics label while in the employ of someone else. Having studied ceramics in college and promptly dropped it to focus on more video-based, site-specific work, the Virginia-born designer found himself a year or so ago back behind the potter’s wheel, working as a studio assistant to a ceramicist in New York City. “A lot of times, artists think of their day job as an obstructive force,” laughs Lewinger. “I started to think of it as something more generative.”
Last month, when the watch brand Mondaine asked for a peek into a day in the life of a Sight Unseen editor, I dragged our trusty photographer Paul Barbera all around the Brooklyn enclave popping in on our friends and shooting future studio visits for the site, from Workaday Handmade to Confettisystem.
To the extent that we cover art on Sight Unseen, it makes sense that we'd naturally gravitate towards action painting — artists may always have plenty to say about the relationship of their work to the viewer, or to philosophy, or to the context of art history, but most of the time we're interested in something a little more prosaic than that, like how they get their hands dirty, and why they've chosen one medium over another. With gestural works, it's all about the process, and the liminal moments just before and after materials cease to be ordinary and paintings transform into something more than the sum of their parts. The work of the Greenpoint-based artist Landon Metz is a perfect example: His paintings are about painting, and how colorful enamel shapes laid down on a tilted canvas will move and evolve as their surface interactions and drying times are influenced by factors like humidity, daylight, and temperature. Sight Unseen contributor Paul Barbera visited Metz's studio recently for Where They Create, and — oh lucky day! — he did our work for us, creating his own podcast interview with the artist which you can listen to after the jump.