Scene and Heard: Andrea Arria-Devoe
“The work itself is very meditative,” says Andrea Arria-Devoe, curator of Pot Heads: A New Wave of Ceramic Artists in Los Angeles, a new exhibition opening at Design Matters Gallery in L.A. on Thursday, October 16. “It’s a labor of love for many of these ceramic artists,” she says, explaining that creating pottery involves sitting at a wheel all day. “It can be very isolating.” But Arria-Devoe, a writer and curator based in Brentwood also notes that the act of creation can be thrilling. “The wheel spins, it’s very unpredictable. Pieces shrink, or don’t turn out at all. You don’t quite know how glazes will feel, what colors will look like. You can’t be a perfectionist.” As Arria-Devoe explored the burgeoning pottery scene in Southern California, she realized there was a new wave of young creators as well as established designers throwing pots. That discovery led her to gather the work of eight artists including Dora De Larios of Irving Place Studio, Kat Hutter and Roger Lee of Kat & Roger, Mirena Kim, Heather Levine, Ben Medansky, Victoria Morris, Sunja Park, and Pilar Wiley for this month-long show.
Arria-Devoe’s love affair with California pottery led her to register for Olima dinnerware at Heath Ceramics over eight years ago. “It seemed so rustic,” she says. Now she has an eye on Irving Place Studio plates, Mirena Kim mugs and a host of other creations. “Each time I went on a studio visit, I was offered water in a different ceramic mug,” she says. “Each glaze feels different, each design is so interesting.” And all of them inspired her to investigate the burgeoning Los Angeles pottery scene for the show. As she started her research, Arria-Devoe found that many potters in town had worked for Heath Los Angeles’s studio director, Adam Silverman. Just as a host of standout California chefs have all come through the kitchen of Alice Waters at Chez Panisse, these potters had worked beside Silverman at one time or another. Roger Lee of Kat & Roger told Arria-Devoe, “Heath was like an MFA for us.” And, Arria-Devoe notes that like Waters, these artists are seeking a slower lifestyle and are drawn to handmade work.
The curator is also betting that you’ve already seen their work. “Irving Place Studio in Culver City made the bowls for Axe in Venice,” notes Arria-Devoe. The show has a very local flavor from the poster created by Katsuo Design based in Culver City to the vessels crafted by Sunja Park in her Pasadena backyard. “This work feels very specific to Los Angeles. It has a midcentury, classic Scandinavian feel, but also includes Japanese influences,” says Arria-Devoe. And though much of the work created by these potters is utilitarian, the show is made up of pieces that aren’t necessarily functional. “This was an opportunity for artists to create something new,” she says. “Making the same things over and over can be very rote. This was really liberating for them.” Nevertheless, guests at the closing evening dinner on November 16 will share a meal served on plates and bowls created by the ceramic artists. After all, why use an ordinary dish when you can eat from a hand-thrown, Los Angeles-fired, one-of-a-kind plate?
By Elizabeth Varnell
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Pictured: Andrea Arria-Devoe
Photo By: Bonnie Tsang