merkel

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: porcelain novelty ears, flip-flops and West African water kettles.
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Why pineapples? “The first commission I ever made was for a friend who asked me to make a big pineapple! I wouldn’t have thought of that myself but then once I made it I thought about so many other things. So for that show, I made other fruits, like a big watermelon with a slice cut out of it, and I really liked them. But to have a giant watermelon in your house is not an easy sell. So I thought about shrinking it down really tiny. People seemed to like that so I expanded the line.”

Helen Levi, ceramicist

If, like us, you began hearing the name Helen Levi only a few months ago — well, there’s a pretty good reason for it. At this time last year, Levi was balancing four part-time jobs, working as a photo assistant, a pottery teacher, a bartender and a waitress. “I’d been doing pottery since I was a little kid, but mostly gifts or for myself,” she told me when I visited her Greenpoint studio last month. “It’s the dream to be able to make stuff you want to make and have that support you, but I never really thought that was possible.” Then, at a random cocktail event last fall at one of the Steven Alan shops in Manhattan, Levi met the man himself: “I met Steven Alan by chance and was telling him about my work, and he was like, ‘Send it to me.’ I didn’t even have one photograph!” Levi laughs. “But once I met him, it was the spark. I quit all my other jobs and I just tried to do this. Maybe it doesn’t work out and I go back to balancing four things, but it didn’t take a huge investment of money. And so far it’s working.”
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Wiseman is obsessed with abstracting the language of nature, and much of his work springs from a series of drawings he began developing six or seven years ago in which he would obsessively sketch idealized natural environments. “In the background would be these crystallized mountains, which eventually became the basis for my faceted vases, and in the foreground would be strange little animals interacting with objects,” he says. The moss drawings decorating the above vase stemmed from that series. “I drew a whole page of them, scanned them, and printed them onto ceramic decal paper. I individually compose patterns on each vase based on how I think the moss might grow. The ink has glass silica in it, which means it can be fired into the clay itself. It’s a really common industrial process for applying things like flowers and text to cups, but I like to twist those processes to make something that feels in a way more handmade.”

David Wiseman, Designer

For a designer whose most high-profile interiors client is Christian Dior, David Wiseman has none of the flamboyance you might expect — neither the stylized degeneracy of John Galliano nor the leather chaps–wearing showmanship of Peter Marino, the architect who in the past year-and-a-half has hired Wiseman to create massive, site-specific installations in his newly renovated Dior flagships from Shanghai to New York. Rather, Wiseman is a 29-year-old RISD grad whose studio is located in a former sweatshop in the industrial Glassell Park area of Los Angeles, just behind an unmarked door in the shadow of a taco truck.
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