Inspired by the contrast of organic and manmade, ceramicist Danny Kaplan has found a channel for self-expression in clay
Danny Kaplan came to ceramics in his early 30s, almost by accident. “I studied creative writing, art history and fine arts at the New School’s Parsons School of Design in New York City,” he remembers. “After college I started assisting different prop stylists and over time, developing my own projects. The process of designing sets and selecting the perfect object was always fascinating to me. Each prop holds a different weight and each one impacts the overall composition. I think about that a lot in my work with clay.”
The revelation of his true passion happened after Kaplan took a ceramic class at a local studio in the city. “I immediately fell in love with the process of wheel throwing, which gave me a freedom I hadn’t found in art school,” he confesses. “I became somewhat obsessed mastering this ancient craft.”
Since then, he has not stopped. His serene studio — nestled in a turn-of-the-century bottling factory in Brooklyn — is where Kaplan feels a sense of calm, which fosters his creativity. Born in New York, Kaplan was raised in the French town of Aix-en-Provence, which has greatly impacted both his personal and professional paths. “My parents loved ‘brocante’ and the markets in Aix were a treasure trove,” he says. “I can trace my early fascination with objects and their significance to that time period. Seeing the world you live in through the eyes of a foreigner brings another perspective.”
Impressed by how creative minds who work using ancient craft methods find ways of making innovative and fresh pieces, Kaplan is strongly inspired by 20th-century artists. “The formal rejection of classical ceramic forms of Peter Voulkos and Hans Coper, the incredible plaster and bronze pieces of Giacometti, the playfulness of Alexandre Noll and the stonework of Barbara Hepworth all play a role in my artistic quest,” he says.
The formal rejection of classical ceramic forms of Peter Voulkos and Hans Coper, the incredible plaster and bronze pieces of Giacometti, the playfulness of Alexandre Noll and the stonework of Barbara Hepworth all play a role in my artistic quest
Starting with loose sketches to land on a composition and forms that complement one another before developing the piece on the wheel, Kaplan has found in clay something that (he feels) has the potential to be mastered or at least perfected. “Unlike with painting or fine art work that seemed so subjective, mastering ceramics meant that if I set out to make a bowl and it functioned as a bowl I had succeeded, and I could keep trying and trying, improving little by little each time”, he describes. “I was able to build confidence as my skills grew and as they grew I refined the aesthetic aspects of the object.”
One of his newest projects is the series of 10 lamps he created with his friend, artist Bruno Grizzo. “With the Talis Cube Lamp there’s a juxtaposition of brutalist architecture and the organic that feels balanced”, says Kaplan. Currently, Kaplan is working on a collection of tables that incorporate wood and ceramic with a Los Angeles-based furniture company, as well as his new shoppable website that will be launched very soon.