It’s Not Sew Easy to Make Porcelain Perform Like this

Even though she works in porcelain, Laura Peery uses the terminology of a tailor. Photo by Matt Rose

Her painted vessels are functional, but so expressively detailed they look like they’ve been cozied up in a protective layer of felt or wool. Using the methods of a seamstress, Laura Peery makes porcelain perform way beyond its comfort level.

As a child, she visited her grandmother’s dressmaker’s shop in New Orleans with her sisters and cousins, collecting pins from the floor and watching how garments were taken apart and pieced back together. “Now, as a porcelain artist, I roll out the clay into flat slabs, much like fabric. And most of the shapes I make are derived from handmade patterns or templates that I trace and cut out,” she describes. Peery uses canvas and other materials to create textures in the clay.

Maintaining the terminology of a tailor, she adds, “I also gather, fold, and cut out darts in the clay as I go, altering the shapes and leaving many of these marks as well.”

These shoes weren’t made for walking, but Peery’s avid collectors know what to do with them. Photo by Matt Rose

Just like a fashion designer, she’s known for trendy colors, has a group of sketches she refers to while crafting pieces, and designs vessels to be shown as collections, including teapots, mugs, vases, and non-functional artworks such as a series of wall-mounted figures. Her sculptural shoes are particularly collectable, and her mixed-media doll-like sculptures are fashioned with surreal whimsy. (“One World” is shown draped in a ribboning highway with cars like a modern St. Francis covered in birds.) “Each piece assumes a personality of its own,” she says. “It might be more puffed out or lean a little, and so I go with how it wants to be rather than try to fight it.”

A Laura Peery Teapot. Photo by Matt Rose

In high school, Peery was inspired by frequent field trips to the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC. “I realized that artists were real people who actually ‘worked’ at their art.” Later, earning her Master’s degree at George Washington University, she was creating ceramic shoes for her thesis show when her professor suggested she use porcelain instead. “That took the shoes to a different level of delicacy,” she says, mentioning the word “fairytale.” Porcelain’s exquisite texture is due to its smaller particles of clay. In its thinnest form, it can be translucent.

It’s more difficult to work with, naturally. “It can crack and warp more than other clays,” she says. “But once you get to know its peculiarities, it gets easier.”

Today, her porcelain art is included in displays everywhere from Wilmington to Taiwan. It also resides in the city where her unusual vision began — in the permanent collection of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Laura Peery Porcelain, Kenilworth. Peery’s work is on display at Grovewood Gallery (111 Grovewood Road, adjacent to the Grove Park Inn); Odyssey Co-op Gallery (238 Clingman Ave. Ext.); and at artfulhome.com. For more information, call 240-460-3266 or e-mail laura.peery@me.com. A member of the Southern Highland Craft Guild, she’ll display work at the Craft Fair of the Southern Highlands July 20-22 at the US Cellular Center, 87 Haywood St. in downtown Asheville (southernhighlandguild.org). Also see laurapeeryporcelain.com or kenilworthartists.org.

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