A little broken crockery doesn’t scare Brooklyn-based ceramicist Amanda Moffat. This is lucky since, as the mother of three children ranging in age from seven to 14, she has suffered her fair share of smashed vases. “You have to think, ‘I can make it again,'” Moffat says, chatting at Danziger Projects, the Chelsea gallery that is showing her work until Friday. “Otherwise, I’d be weeping.”
Her pragmatic attitude pervades Moffat’s artwork, a collection of intricately decorated but functional jugs, plates and bowls, which are collected by pals like Annie Leibovitz and Steven Meisel. “They are sculpture, but I love to use them,” she says of the pieces she keeps for herself.
Moffat came late to the wheel. A Vassar graduate with a degree in art history, she decided that her first career as a stage actress was “incompatible with a happy home,” after marrying Art + Commerce founder Jim Moffat in 1988. A few pottery classes at Greenwich House later, she was hooked, and started working out of her Brooklyn Heights home. Now the proud owner of a 5,000-square-foot studio in Cobble Hill, she leases space to 14 other potters and works up to six hours a day. One piece can take nearly three months to complete.
“People ask, ‘How do you have so much patience?'” she laughs. “I love making things. I find it endlessly absorbing.”
She finds inspiration everywhere, from harlequin fabrics to Ottoman designs. One series of box-shaped vases has window-like cutouts based on Greek architecture, while another is painted after the windows of the Doge’s palace in Venice. Moffat mixes all her own glazes, using copper powder for a deep green and cobalt for blue. “Glazing is like a puzzle. You have to think three steps ahead. The kiln can make it either beautiful or horrible,” she says, explaining that a gas kiln is highly sensitive to temperature and barometric pressure. After firing a painstakingly patterned vase for 12 hours, it needs to cool inside for a crucial day and a half. “It’s a brutal time,” Moffat says. “You have to get busy and you can’t peek. I get nervous and have been known to look in there using flashlights.”
This story first appeared in the June 21, 2005 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
No wonder Moffat says she never gets bored by all the hard work pottery demands. “I am still learning. With clay, it’s a timing game. It’s so exciting.”