Brooklyn-based ceramist Simone Bodmer-Turner is best known for her Single Stem vessels—a series of wishbone-shaped ceramic receptacles she introduced at last year’s Architectural Digest Design Show—that was snatched up by retailers throughout the US, Japan, and France. They form part of the 29-year-old’s signature body of work, which consists of similarly svelte forms emerging from bulbous bases. Last fall, she began working on bigger, more sculpturally inclined pieces that are technically functional (as suggested by a tiny hole on the top). She’ll unveil this unnamed collection exclusively at clothing retailer Totokaelo‘s Crosby Street storefront during NYCxDesign.
Bodmer-Turner’s latest creations mark a departure from her previous work in that they offer a different silhouette from every vantage point. “It sounds macabre, but I’m really interested in bones,” the artist says. “The way they fit into each other, the curves, the negative space, the sharp and smooth angles—it all informed this collection.” Another important resource was the French architect Valentine Schlegel, whose sinuous vases began cropping up on Instagram when Bodmer-Turner was working on initial forms for the line. In researching Schlegel’s work, she discovered the architect had a stint in ceramics and shared her affinity for smooth, lumpy shapes. Inspired, Bodmer-Turner set out to translate Schlegel’s style of angles and curves into the surface of her sculptures.
Each piece is hand-built using clay that incorporates sand, which makes the medium resilient and prevents cracking. Bodmer-Turner begins by making logs (or “snakes,” as she calls them) of clay and hand-molds them into different parts of the body; pieces are combined using additional clay coils then shaped with a dull, metal knife, refining the curves and texture of the finished object. A matte glaze creates a refined, chalk-colored finish.
While you wouldn’t guess it, Bodmer-Turner is relatively new to clay. Born in Berkeley, California, and raised in Massachusetts, she moved to New York for a job in finance, then accepted a position at a Brooklyn start-up. Around 2012, she took two ceramics classes at a studio in Williamsburg and was hooked. After making beads and jewelry, Bodmer-Turner’s interest in ceramics took her around the world to learn techniques from local artisans in Japan and Mexico. Last January, Totokaelo placed an order after seeing her work at the AD show, allowing Bodmer-Turner to pursue her craft full-time. This month, she presented work during the Salone del Mobile design and furniture fair for the first time.
“It’s a very self-indulgent practice,” she says, noting that she feels lucky to spend her days as she does. “I practice a traditional method of working with clay, but am still absorbing the tricks and the secret rules of what you can and cannot do. That’s the most interesting part: I could learn about it for the rest of my life and, at the end of it, still have things I don’t know.”
Simone Bodmer-Turner and GRAY’s editorial director, Tiffany Jow, will be in conversation at Totokaelo’s New York shop on Thursday, May 16 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. during NYCxDesign. Read more about the project here.