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Author Profile
Jonathan Kaplan

Jonathan Kaplan has worked as a production potter, university educator, ceramic artist, as well as a professional mold and model maker, ceramic designer and manufacturer. He has written extensively for Ceramics Monthly, Pottery Making Illustrated, Ceramics Technical, Ceramics: Art and Perception, and Studio Potter. His work has been featured in the Lark Books series, including “500 Vases,” “Best of 500 Ceramics,” and “500 Teapots”. 

Jonathan is the author of The Mold-Making Manual.

artaxis profile


How do we learn to make ceramics? We can easily identify our skills, but how do we quantify our knowledge? Skill and knowledge are two entirely different entities with differing vocabularies, yet they are intimately entwined.
There are two inherent and consciously feared occurrences in producing ceramic works in a studio. The first, within our realm of control, is poor or unsuccessful firing. The second, out of the potter's control, is bad or contaminated raw materials.
The demands of studio production necessitate that the potter's time be spent as profitably as possible on those tasks at which he is most skilled.
After fifteen years of making pottery, I decided it was time to stop. It has been well over a year now since I made that choice, and although my life has changed greatly during this time, there has not been a day in which I have not thought about pottery or my previous business.
I am often reminded of the opening scene in the movie Out of Africa: as the camera pans over spectacular country, we hear, in a voice-over, "I had a coffee plantation in Africa." That simple statement resonates quite strongly with me.
Mudshark Studio Growlers
In his Life Cycle Completed, developmental psychologist Erik Erikson uses the term "generativity," referring to the task as well as the responsibility of establishing and guiding the next generation.
"Neo Industrial Art Object" drawing by Jonathan Kaplan and Clark Willingham.
Those pivotal years studying the physical structure, history, and construction of buildings, as well as architectural design philosophy, were the beginning of a journey to find my own voice in ceramics.
I think that as ceramic artists, we are always looking for acceptance, relevancy, and validation, if not from ourselves but from others both within and outside of our community. How we define acceptance, relevancy, and validation is, of course, different for each of us. I remember in a much earlier Studio Potter issue, Mary Barringer spoke of “longer threads of meaning in our work.” I always look for such concepts in my work, and after my lengthy career and small achievements, I still try to maintain some degree of relevance.