Self-taught ceramic artist Danny Kaplan finds his niche in the experimentation and implementation of the various possibilities of ceramic. His Brooklyn-based practice employs experimental techniques, along with striking glazes and distinct finishes to produce unique handmade product designs. Inspiration is drawn from sources ranging from ancient Greek and Chinese pottery to German modernist ceramic artist Hans Coper. Intricacies and traditions are embraced in Kaplan's designs as much as subtle resolutions and minimalist aesthetics. Each piece conceived in the studio begins with a sketch and is eventually turned into one-of-a-kind furniture designs in the studio. Danny Kaplan Studio employs skilled artisans who use grog and grit-rich clay to maximise the flexibility of the material, using various techniques from traditional wheel throwing to coil and slab building to manipulate the clay after which it is fired and glazed to result in vibrant and elegant finishes.
Earthy and modern, the Brick Collection is the studio's first mixed-material exploration, deriving its name from the stacked brick form of the medium, for producing sculptural lighting designs and furniture pieces. In keeping with their philosophy to balance contradicting design approaches, this collection pays homage to the perennial beauty of Brutalism. Ceramic stacked bricks with tactile glazing and wooden detailing are arranged in a pleasing composition to create a coffee table, side table, table lamp, and a stool design, each incorporating a white or ebonised oak balanced on a set of stacked ceramic legs. The Brick Collection also pays homage to the works of late Italian artist Bruno Gambone's square base vessels and French interior designer Jean-Michael Frank's refined rectilinear details. The making of it was, therefore, only possible through slab building, and not by employing the traditional potter's wheel. “In thinking about the architectural aspect of slab work, I decided I wanted to create a cohesive and inviting lighting and furniture collection that could harmoniously coexist in any modern environment,” Kaplan explains. “The mixed-use of both scalable shapes marry fine wood—a material I have long admired but have never worked with—represents an evolution of the studios’ offering and a turning point in my own practice as a designer,” the New York-based ceramicist adds.
Each clay slab is rolled and slowly dried to the leather-hard stage after which, it is cut and attached to other similar wooden furniture, resulting in modular bricks which are eventually layered and joined. Contrasting the geometrical clay base are wooden joineries and oak tabletops, developed in collaboration with local woodworkers. The entire process excited the studio as it played into their passion for material exploration. “Despite its challenges, any technique that allows me to push the material in new ways is always exciting. I appreciate the learning process, just as much as the thrill of landing on a design concept or pulling a finished piece out of the kiln,” relays the furniture designer, whose studio in Brooklyn, US, conceives pieces that are handmade to order.
A playful style is juxtaposed with stark shapes, the juxtaposition jarringly welcoming, setting the collection apart and alluding to the product designer's emphasis on form and composition. The product designs are supplemented with six different finishes including stone, anthracite, lapis, ivy, chestnut, and soft terra sigillata, with an aim of drawing viewers in at first glance. The collection was displayed at NYCxDesign 2023, as a part of Sight Unseen's design exhibition alongside various other collections from renowned designers and artists, from May 18 - 24, 2023.
(Text by Aatmi Chitalia, Intern at STIR)