Fire in the kiln: The rising popularity of ceramics

  • An influx of young designers are bringing ceramics back into focus.
    An influx of young designers are bringing ceramics back into focus.

    Fire in the kiln: The rising popularity of ceramics

    Ceramics is having a moment. The art medium, which works with clay, has exploded in popularity in recent years.

    According to Artspace magazine, ceramics have “made a comeback,” with a surge in artists interested in working in the medium. Rising ceramics activity means there are growing career opportunities for individuals interested in the field, for artists themselves as well as designers, buyers and auction managers.

    Resurgence in popularity
    The increasing interest in working in ceramics can largely be traced to the influx of young, new designers and artists into the field, according to a recent issue of The Economist’s 1843 magazine. Many established and legacy ceramics companies, such as Wedgwood, have been searching for young talent to infuse their wares with contemporary appeal. As a result, there’s been “a boom in ceramics in recent years as pottery goes from the fringes of the design world to the center,” journalist Tom Morris wrote in the article.

    The industry is set for further growth as well. According to a report by Grand View Research, Inc., the global ceramics market is expected to grow to $287 billion by 2022. While the report did not focus solely on the artistic applications of ceramics, it did highlight its expanding industrial uses in housing, construction and the automobile industry, which presents professional opportunities for engineers and related professionals as well as artists.

    Career opportunities for individuals interested in ceramics
    There are many career opportunities for individuals interested in working with ceramics:

    Artists with a fresh eye and approach to ceramics, using the medium in inventive ways, are being acclaimed by many in the art world. For example, My Modern Met featured a list of 11 “innovative ceramic artists breathing new life into an age-old art,” while Artsy highlighted ceramics artists who are “shaping the future” of the medium.

    With the rising focus on ceramics, there is also growing interest by the public in taking ceramics classes. “Pottery is the new Pilates,” says The New York Times, with a marked increase in young New Yorkers learning the art in their free time. Individuals interested in ceramics could build a career through working as ceramics teachers and educators at schools, community organizations, museums and public and private studios.

    Auction houses
    There are a variety of professional roles available for individuals interested in art and ceramics at auction houses. Appraisers, catalogers, inventory specialists, photographers and auction managers are all some of the job titles one may find at an auction house.

    In concurrence with the growing interest in young artists to work in ceramics, museums are also receiving an influx of ceramics donations from older collectors, according to Ceramics Arts Network. Museum professionals such as curators and collections coordinators can help collectors ensure their pieces will have a safe, respectful home where they’ll be appreciated and protected for many years to come. In addition, museum employees may find opportunities to create thoughtful exhibitions that tap into the current public interest in innovative ceramic design.

    There are also career opportunities at galleries for individuals interested in working with ceramics. Ceramics Arts Network explained that a new approach has gained in popularity in recent years in which collectors work with private galleries to sell their works, called the “secondary ceramic sales” market.

    Tips for pursuing a career with ceramics
    Brit + Co interviewed artist Dana Bechert about pursuing a career in ceramics. Bechert shared a number of tips for aspiring artists, including the importance of defining your own aesthetic, constantly seeking out inspiration and not being afraid to reach out to galleries and retailers. It’s also important to familiarize yourself with all aspects of the business.

    “Jobs in a larger company are divided into accounting, shipping, material processing, sourcing, outreach and promotion, etc.,” Bechert told the site. “In a small business, I am responsible for all that.”

    In addition, going to graduate school can also help you begin or advance your ceramics career. Ceramics is a focus or concentration area of many fine and applied art graduate programs across the country. For example, the Rhode Island School of Design offers an MFA program in ceramics, while the University of Colorado Boulder provides a graduate program in ceramics, while the University of Arkansas operates a MFA in ceramics program as well. U.S. News & World Report has a ranking of the best graduate ceramics programs in the country here.

    Advanced degree programs in ceramics can help students hone their craft and understand historical and modern contexts for the ceramics market. They often also learn about the business side of working in and with ceramics and how auction, studio, gallery and commercial relationships work. Through their coursework with their fellow students as well as faculty, students can begin to create professionals networks that may serve them well as they launch their careers.

    If you have a passion for ceramics, pursue it! With the resurgence in popularity in the medium, it’s a great time to explore career opportunities in ceramics.

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