10 Contemporary Ceramic Artists Embracing Line

As much as I love them, museums only take you so far when you’re trying to research ceramic drawing options… and there’s nothing like deep trawling the internet for ceramics inspiration, am I right?

Ruth and I have been researching for our collab body of work over the past six months which has dug up some really exciting stuff. Recently I’ve been coming across a bunch of awesome modern illustrative clay work. These objects use a range of different drawing techniques, from underglaze to pencils, slip and lustres. Some of these clay artists (like Christoforou) were already in my research bag, but with further exploring I’ve come across a few hidden gems like USA’s Ettrick and Kiwi Aaron Scythe.

These are 10 of my favourite artists I’ve encountered, all working with drawing or line in exciting and thought provoking ways. In keeping with The Humble Mud ethos there’s a few New Zealand artists lurking around in there, too!


Peach background with a white text and a hand drawn brown line. Text reads Fresh Lines, drawing in contemporary ceramics. The humble mud, a ceramics blog by carragh amos. thehumblemud.com carraghamos.com


Carmel Van Der Hoeven

Waikato, New Zealand

Carmel Van Der Hoeven georgesandstudio : Nude carafe and jugs for @endemicworld : photography @nitameyerphotography 

The ceramic work of Carmel Van Der Hoeven is soft, calm and human, featuring fluid twisting lines on backdrops with a sense of depth and texture. The vessels have a classic timelessness with a modern twist. I especially like her vessel figures, but also fell in love with a gorgeous porcelain lampshade and some of the mugs. In Tāmaki (Auckland)? You can swing by Endemic World in Ponsonby to check out these objects in person – cause something tells me even these lovely photographs just don’t do them justice.

Ruby Neri

California, USA

Rubi Neri : WIP detail

Sitting somewhere between beautiful and grotesque are the large scale vessels of Rubi Neri. Many of Neri’s large colourful vases feature bodies and nudes reminiscent of early 20th C paintings, with bold primary colours and exaggerated features serving Der blaue reiter meets Viola Frey (Frey being one of Neri’s key influences). It’s worth noting that Frey worked in graffiti throughout the nineties, a history which looks to informs her style.

Zuzana Svatik

Berlin, Germany

Zuzana Svatik : EVIL SIX PACK

You’ll laugh, you’ll frown. Consistently surprising and eye opening objects. I cannot get enough of the work of Zuzana Svatik. Phrases on vases include “Don’t forget who’s your daddy”, “How many friends do you have?” and my personal favourite, “Ramen is the new chicken soup”.

Michelle Ettrick

Florida, USA (Panamanian)

Michelle Ettrick working

Ettrick’s work often has a political component or references times past. She has a great line style and fine sgrafitto on the more pared back pieces. The large vessel works are muralistic in both style and composition, which distinguishes them from other illustrative artists I’ve seen. I’d love to see some of these larger vessels in real life, I imagine they’d be pretty impressive. Ettrick is currently studying toward her thesis and I’m looking forward to seeing what else she makes as her practice develops.

Kenesha Sneed

Altadena, USA

Kenesha Sneed : Porcelain vases

Working across disciplines, the line between painting, drawing and ceramics is fluid and makes for exciting and refreshing work from Sneed. Some objects have literal illustrations while larger pieces read more as experiments in 3D drawing. A strong sense of play and experimentation is evident in these objects, and the burst of spontaneity visible in drawings has not been lost in the slow process of making ceramic vessels. Sneeds work looks like it was fun to make, would be fun to use, and is definitely fun to look at. Oh – and you’ll want to have a look at those paintings too!

Emily Counts

Seattle, USA

Emily Counts : Detail of a wall hanging sculpture

I stumbled across the instagram account of Emily Counts last month and my peepers nearly fell out of my head. I’m an absolute texture hunny and these works certainly deliver on that front. I really enjoy the way the more illustrative qualities of line filling are juxtaposed with the gleam of metallics and chalky matte of filled blocks. Add to that quirky sculptural shapes and refreshing takes on the vessel. Stunning work, both in surface and form.

Holly Rose Morgan

New Zealand

Holly Morgan : Consumption pt 2

“Exploring body and form in decoration, all whilst creating a piece that is sturdy yet elegant & beautiful in form.”

Holly Rose Morgan

Blue line floats above the neutral clay bodies in this playful series of Holly Rose Morgan’s. A personified teapot is reminiscent of Picasso’s painted ceramics, while other dishes explore mixed graphic motifs with comic book clarity. The objects have a vibrancy and energy thanks to the smooth line work and ink-like consistency. Originally from Whangamata, Morgan has just opened new clay studio / shopfront in Napier NZ. The space can be found at 4 market Street (and looks ridiculously lovely, I might add).

Daphne Christoforou


Daphne Christoforou

Fascinating illustrations that express personal emotions, human struggles and sometimes sadness, all made in a labour intensive and breathtakingly beautiful narrative style. Daphne Christoforou also gets top points for being one of the absolute best artists to follow on instagram if you want to get some smarts in your brain while scrolling the black hole that is social media. She’s a legend at talking about materials and answering questions, and is very open about her personal ceramics methods. Thanks, Daphne!

Katie Rose Johnston

Glasgow, Scotland

Katie Rose Johnston : Velma Vase

Sharp graphic silhouettes with Cy Twombly-esque scribbles? Can I just say… swoon. Vessels resting in a sweet spot between vase and canvas. These wonderfully original works by Katie Rose Johnston balance soft and hard textures beautifully. Firmly on my collection wishlist.

Aaron Scythe

New Zealand
available at @masterworksgallerynz

Aaron Scythe ‘Yobitsugi style vase’ (porcelain with stoneware, H360 x Dia330mm)
Photo masterworksgallerynz

Rip up comic book mash it with an Osaka antique store and you’ve pretty much got the work of Aaron Scythe. The Kiwi has spent a bunch of time honing his craft in Japan, and creating oddball hybrid vessels patching the cultures of East and West in surprising ways. When he wasn’t busy building Anagama kilns in the land of the rising sun (sounds like a great time, the envy is strong), Scythe hit out an impressive 60 or so Japan based exhibitions. Whew. He’s now based back in NZ and has exhibited at the much loved Portage Ceramic Awards.

There are so many talented ceramicists working with illustrative ceramics, it was hard to cut it down to these… I might have to write a follow up to this!

Are there any artists you know of bridging ceramic art and drawing? Who should I know about? Let me know in the comments!

Need more mud? DISCOVER new clay artists here, or you can find my posts specifically on NZ ceramicists and potters under NEW ZEALAND CERAMICS.

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