The Maximalist and the Minimalist: Exploring Handmade Homeware Offered by Two Female Ceramicists with Distinctly Different Aesthetics
With both quite popular -- and enduringly so -- one might think that maximalism and minimalism must be competing against each other for consumer attention in today’s interiors. However, today’s maximalism is more thoughtful and personality-driven than that of years past just as today’s minimalism is more comforting and emotional. The minimalism of 2021 is much better represented by ceramicist Tracie Hervy’s thoughtful, warm and intentional pieces than by the stark absolutism of early 2010s clinical minimalism. Similarly, the joyous maximalism of Shino Takeda’s ceramics represents the eclecticism and vibrancy of today’s maximalism much more effectively than the garish, overstated maximalism of decades prior. Follow below to learn more about the diverging yet ultimately philosophically intertwined practices of female ceramicists Tracie Hervy and Shino Takeda. To keep up with both artisans and their handmade homeware, follow Hervy and Takeda on Instagram.
Understanding the Skyrocketing Popularity of Artisan-Made Ceramics and Other Handmade Homeware
Over the last five years, interest in hand-crafted, artisan made homeware -- particularly ceramics and pottery -- has skyrocketed. Millennial buyers -- many of whom have become more educated about and engaged with sustainability and conscious consumerism -- have spurred the market forward. Journalists across the country have noted the seismic shift away from fast furniture, fashion and homeware and toward artisan and antique pieces over the last five years. They have credited both environmental responsibility and a desire for personal spaces which express the character and style of each buyer more specifically than which mass-produced goods are able. Handmade homeware -- specifically ceramics -- have found a deep and seemingly permanent foothold amongst Gen X, Millennial and Gen Z buyers.
Artisan-Made Homewares Transform the Mundane
In his 2015 article "Why Handmade Ceramics Are White Hot" for The New York Times, Tim Keough outlined his belief that “the rejection of factory-produced sameness in dinnerware and vases reflects a desire to get back to something more essential.” He wrote that just like “we want to know where our free-range eggs come from, and where our coffee beans are grown and roasted...we also want the vessels we used to consume those things to embody a deeper story about craftsmanship and creativity.” Four years after Keough, in her 2019 article “Why a Passion for Handmade Pottery Is on the Rise” for Barcelona Metropolitan, Amelia Johannsen wrote that “more and more, people are rejecting factory-produced homeware and rediscovering the soulful nature of hand-crafted goods.” She outlined the fact that consumers have “grown tired of buying mass-produced products—objects which are not unique, meaningful or memorable.” They have also begun to engender guilt over the ease with which they toss out cheap, out-of-fashion items they no longer like but which are still functional.
Handcrafted Ceramic Pieces Enrich the Everyday
Johannsen explains that handmade homeware offers a solution to the boredom constantly wrought by mass-produced pieces. However, they offer a bit more than reprieve from boredom. Artisan-made pieces offer an elevation of the everyday and the opportunity to turn mundane activities into special, treasured moments. She writes that the care, personality and experience with which handmade homeware is crafted “enrich everyday objects with purpose and beauty; it gives them a soul.” Keough echoed Johannsen’s perspective nearly five years prior, writing that “something made of the hand is so special, it inherently adds soul and dimension within a space.” Rather than mass-produced pieces, “when an object is made by hand—by you or by a craftsman—you won’t want to throw it away [but] will care for it and cherish it.” Clearly -- six years after Keough’s assessment and two years after Johannsen’s -- we are still very much in love with the transformative, grounding, inspiring effects of handmade ceramics.
Two Adventures with a Shared Destination: Female Ceramicists Tracie Hervy and Shino Takeda
The Minimalist Ceramicist Tracie Hervy
Hervy’s Background in Fine Art, Architecture and Functional Art
According to the bio on her website, Tracie Hervy’s journey into ceramics began “in the studios of Greenwich House Pottery in NYC,” though she initially planned to work as an architect. Hervy discussed her beginnings as a ceramicist in a recent article published by Nourish & Co -- a company with which Hervy partnered -- entitled “Nourish Co. Ritual Cup Collaboration: An Interview with Ceramicist Tracie Hervy.” In the interview, Hervy noted that while Greenwich House "wasn’t an influence on [her] style or approach to ceramics,” it did offer “a great community of people who really loved the medium, and access to some of the most important ceramic artist working today.” Not only did Greenwich House expose Hervy to Judy Jackson and Eric Bonnin of Tribeca Potters -- with whom she later worked -- but it has also “played a critical role in the development of new talent of the ceramic arts.” After her work with Greenwich House Pottery, Hervy continued her education at RISD where she received an MFA in ceramics.
Her current approach to ceramics -- as well as a number of intriguing partnerships over the last few years -- is supported by her background in art and architecture. Today, Hervy’s work is in a number of shops across the country -- as well as available through a number of retailers online. These include Amber Shoppe Interiors, March and Nickey Kehoe in California. Those in New York include Clic, Ryland Life Equipment and Still House. Her work is also in AP Shop in Lakeside, Michigan and Egan Rittenhouse in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. One of her most popular collaborations has been that with Bloomist -- a nature and sustainability-focused handmade homeware company that represents a number of artisans across the country.
Her Design Ethos
Hervy creates small-batch ceramic handmade homeware that is both functional and beautiful. When asked about her transition from artist to artisan in the interview featured in Nourish & Co’s article “Nourish Co. Ritual Cup Collaboration: An Interview with Ceramicist Tracie Hervy,” Hervy referenced her love of architecture, noting that “like architecture, [ceramics is] an art (at least vessel making) that has real utility.” Hervy explained that she fell away from fine art because in recent years it has felt as though “art is losing its inherent value, becoming a mere prop to be used in ‘artistic discourse.’” She turned towards ceramics because unlike fine art, with ceramics “there are objective standards,” especially when ceramic objects will be used functionally. With ceramics, Hervy felt that “if the work were good, there would be a market of it” because “things are less random than they are in the art world.”
Hervy’s Aesthetic and Inspirations
Reduction to pure form represents Tracie Hervy’s current aesthetic. In her article “Talented Black Ceramicists To Support And Follow'' for Lonny.com, Shelby Wax writes of Hervy’s designs as “clean and impactful.” She notes that “simple minimalist designs are ceramicist Tracie Hervy’s specialty.” According to Bloomist’s brief on their collaboration with Hervy, the pieces she created for the partnership are “austere [and] plainly forthright, all elegant lines and iconic shapes.” The true purpose of these pieces is to “serve any one of myriad aims, and to be pressed into action for needs as varied as their new owners themselves.”
Quoting Hervy herself, the brief explains that her handmade homeware "functions in the world similarly to the Mason jar, in that it leaves space for your imagination.’” Each piece is both “‘utilitarian and aesthetic’” -- notes Hervy -- and is versatile, transforming into “‘a planter -- or bowl or art object.’” In an interview with Amber Lewis’ AllSortsOf.com, Hervy described her inspirations as “good film, good art, seeing kitties move about the world, good architecture, Richard Devore.” Shop her Bloomist collection, her Amber Interiors collection and her SHW collection -- or contact Hervy directly. Follow Hervy’s work on Instagram here.
The Maximalist Ceramicist Shino Takeda
In 2019, All Nippon Airways -- Japan’s largest commercial airline -- released an article about Shino Takeda’s Japanese-inspired ceramics entitled “A WALK OF DISCOVERY THROUGH KYOTO WITH SHINO TAKEDA.” The article traces both Takeda’s inspirations and her origins as a ceramicist, beginning with her birth on Kyushu Island, Japan and ending with her move to Brooklyn, New York. According to the article -- supported by comments from Takeda herself -- “Takeda grew up in Kyushu Island in southern Japan, where her mother, a collector of traditional Japanese ceramics, influenced her profoundly.” In fact -- laughs Takeda -- her eventual fate as a ceramicist was practically preordained, as her parents named her “‘Shino, after a centuries-old ceramics style.’”
Like Hervy, Takeda did not begin her career in the ceramic arts, notes Hana Asbrink in her article “A Japanese Ceramicist’s Wild & Free Home” for Food52.com. Asbrink writes that though today Takeda is a “full-time artist, whose wares can are on her own site and featured in cool boutiques like Mociun...she came to her current profession after years of side-hustling.” Her current “one-of-a-kind works [which] all look so whimsical” are the results of “years of hard work” and “great technique” that she developed throughout her life. Takeda originally planned to enter the workforce as a dancer in New York.
Her Design Ethos
As a social and engaging person, Takeda embraces emotion in the creation of her handmade homeware, rejecting minimalism and stark utilitarianism. In conversation with Asbrink in her article “A Japanese Ceramicist’s Wild & Free Home” for Food52.com, Takeda describes her approach to design as maximalist, noting that she is not “‘a big fan of minimalism or a super organized style.’” Each piece in her home -- and each piece she creates -- must have “‘a history or story behind it.’” On her own website, Takeda writes that she is “always searching for perfect imperfections, tracing memories, and leaving footsteps of her life, making a story that connects the old to the new and [herself] to others.” Today, Takeda is “striving to make larger, mature-like pieces, which can still hold eccentric child-like feeling.”
Shino Takeda’s Aesthetic and Inspirations
Shino Takeda’s ceramics are eccentric and nostalgic, hallmarked by bright, saturated colors and intriguing, unusual shapes. Like Tracie Hervy, Takeda creates pieces like pots and coffee cups that are both beautiful and completely functional. In her recent article “10 New Female Ceramic Artists We Love” for MarthaStewart.com, Megan Cahn describes Takeda’s work as “vibrant and full of life, with a sense of raw playfulness.” Takeda’s ceramics evolve over time, imbibing the artist’s new experiences and those of the changing world. Quoting Takeda herself, Cahn writes that the artist is “‘inspired by nature and what [she] sees each season.’" Each day, Takeda notes that she notices “‘different colors around [her which she tries to] capture [in her] work.’" Monica Khemsurov echoes Cahn’s take on Takeda’s aesthetic and inspirations in her recent article “Shino Takeda in Inventory Magazine” for SightUnseen.com. Khemsurov writes that “the handmade, uneven and organic feel of Shino’s work has become part of her signature.”
The way in which Takeda uses “irregular shapes, experimental colors and a combination of rough and smooth surfaces” results in beautiful pieces that can function in one’s home either as a display piece or as functional homeware. Takeda’s work is inspired by both her chosen hometown of Brooklyn and her place of origin in Japan. In her 2019 interview with All Nippon Airways, Takeda described interactions with the natural world as her primary source of inspiration, noting that she will “‘see a beautiful place, taste or feel something and that [that will] translate into a color palette.’” In the article, Takeda explained that she is particularly drawn to the reds and browns of Kyoto, but the many gardens, museums and cafés of Japan all offer endless inspiration for her work. To learn more about Takeda's current work, follow her on Instagram.
Hervy and Takeda Share a Desire to Foster Imagination
While Shino Takeda and Tracie Hervy produce very different end products and approach ceramics with opposing aesthetics, they draw inspiration from similar sources. Both Takeda and Hervy pull from other art forms -- from architecture to fine art -- and reference the history of art and design in their work. Though some pieces are oddly shaped and vibrantly glazed and others are streamlined and neutral-toned, Takeda and Hervy both create ceramic homeware that can be used functionally or can be placed on a shelf simply to be admired. Both artisans create their work in small batches, lovingly crafting each piece to be enjoyed and treasured by their new owners, infused with the creator’s personality, ethos and respect for artisans before her. Perhaps the closest comparison to be made between Takeda and Hervy is their joint desire to create versatile, ever-evolving pieces that conform to the needs of the owner while inspiring them.
Quoted by Elena Ortega in her article “Shino Takeda: When Your Mug is Alive” for Metal Magazine, Takeda explains that when she makes her ceramics, she has her “own ideas, but [wants] people to use their imagination.” Takeda elaborates that “a sake cup can be used as a flower vase on the side of a dinner plate, to leave the olive pits or maybe as a ring holder right next to the sink.” Similarly, notes Hervy in conversation with Bloomist, Hervy wants her “‘work to function in the world similarly to the Mason jar, in that it leaves space for your imagination.’”