How a designer got inspired to turn to a new material – and mode of making

Staying at home in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis have you feeling like your inventive spark is snuffed out? Now's the time to ignite your inspiration: here's an excerpt from our bestselling title, Tom Morris' New Wave Clayabout designer Chris Wolston.

Chris Wolston does not like to limit himself to one material. The designer, who divides his time living between Brooklyn and Medellín in Colombia, more commonly uses aluminum and glass or neon in his work.

His foray into ceramics came about through experimentation. Wolston first travelled to Colombia on a Fulbright research trip and held a ceramics workshop for local kids. The clay they played with was processed from handfuls of dirt that Wolston asked them each to bring in. They were encouraged to make little sculptures out of the vernacular red earth, with Wolston taking them on trips to a local brick factory and the pre-Colombian ceramics archive at the local university for inspiration. His enthusiasm for terracotta was soon piqued as much as theirs.

The terracotta furniture that Wolston went on to develop has its roots in the Colombian project in many ways. Firstly, they are all named after places in the nation including the Chicoral table and the Cocora planter. Stylistically, there is a squat, simplified naïveté that links with figurative art of Mesopotamia. Wolston has anthropomorphized them – heads of chairs sprouting with cacti and armrests that wave at you – to emphasize this. That this was all born out of a project with kids demonstrates the fun that Wolston has with his material-led approach.

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