From Storage to Studio: The crate digging of Philadelphia’s The Clay Studio

If Philadelphia ever needed heroes when it came to all matters, and manners, of pottery those champions could be found at The Clay Studio.
The Clay Studio has been trafficking in what they call “the art and craft of clay… together students, artists, and an engaged public into a welcoming community” since 1974, remaining a critical force for good.

Rather than solely stay home in its 137-139 North Second Street digs for its newest exhibition, “From Storage to Studio” (through November 14), 14 current and former Resident Artists from The Clay Studio headed into the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s storage vaults and worked with 7 curators to explore and present the PMA’s long-unseen (or never-before witnessed) treasures.

Anyone who has followed the PMA’s recent upwards trajectories of new galleries and digging through its long-hidden underground catacombs knows that there is so much more to the museum than meet the eye. The Clay Studio took advantage of the PMA’s fresh excavations – as well as its on-going vast collections whose works often shift, and go into storage – and were allowed to use these hidden objects (one per artist) in which to study and use as inspiration.

“Coinciding with the American Craft Council national conference in Philadelphia, the exhibition will present the artists’ work at The Clay Studio alongside inspiration pieces from the collections of the Philadelphia Museum of Art,” states the exhibition’s legend, a gallery show that now also doubles as a gorgeous printed catalog with lavish photos from the Schiffer Publishing House.

Below is one example pulled from the book just to give you an idea of the exhibition and its printed/photo-heavy volume.

“The Boxers” – Nick Lenker, 2019 (ceramic, custom ceramic decals, luster//19″ x 12″ x 21″)

“Here are two souvenirs from an 1800s boxing match between Tom Molineaux (an African American former slave) and Tom Cribb (the Champion of England). Molineaux’s story is the story of an underdog rising out of humble beginnings and almost toppling the best fighter in England.

It’s a story about gaining access through exceptional skill. The souvenir acts as a memento of a moment in time worth remembering. An object that attempts to be a passage to a place in your life that is unreachable. It is a symbol representing an event which has now changed through the perspective of time.

Artist Nick Lenker.

I wanted this sculpture to encompass all of the ways of seeing these spaces and the objects within them. How could I mix the idea of the souvenir with our layered perception? I want to see many sides at once. I create the object. It is blank. I give it identity with a skin made of photographs that don’t belong to it. Can it be real?

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