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Caterina Rancho

How Johannes Nagel Makes Bespoke Pottery Interesting

Of his work with vases, Johannes Nagel will tell you upfront: “I have rarely thought of flowers”. His studio is empty of any floral element; instead the shelves and surfaces are crowded with pottery of different textures, sizes, shapes, and colors– which all together seem to form their own sort of diverse garden. Visually, Nagel’s style is reminiscent of Hundertwasser: it has an improvised earthiness that relies on instinct and exploration rather than strict lines and principled design.

Nagel learned his craft from Kinya Ishikawa, the founder of 1001 Pots (the largest pottery exhibition in North America), before going on to study with Antje Scharfe, Karl Fulle and Martin Neubert. Based out of Halle, Germany, he teaches ceramics at Burg Giebichenstein and describes his work as “rhetorical figures” rather than “objects for practical use”. Reflecting on the larger genre of his work, Nagel relayed to GC, “Vases are used as a sculptural theme instead of re-designing the functional object.

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As for the process by which he finds inspiration for his craft, Nagel’s is an ever changing one. “A successful work shows the mood of the search for a new path,” he opined. “My goal for the future is to be still searching.”

That exploratory process isn’t always a seamless one, however. Nagel relays, “Once I experimented in my kiln with plaster, which I wanted to burn with the porcelain. As usual, I put the kiln on to burn it overnight. When I met my landlord the next day, he told me that he was sleeping on the sofa last night in the study, because white smoke was rising from the cracks of the floorboards and the whole room was clouded. Since then, I only do such experiments when I am there myself.”

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