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The Designer Making Surprisingly Humanoid Sculptural Ceramics

By Julia Felsenthal

Mari Maeda & Yuji Oboshi. Set design by Alicia SciberrasA selection of Jeremy Anderson’s glazed stoneware vessels, all with hand-painted stripes.

When the designer Jeremy Anderson, 44, was a kid growing up in suburban Minneapolis, his favourite toys were paper dolls, though he rarely played with them. “It wasn’t something little boys did,” he remembers. “It was this secret thing I loved.” Decades later, Anderson traces a link between that furtive interest and his heretofore behind-the-scenes ceramics practice, throwing chubby anthropomorphic vessels that he “dresses up” with hand-painted stripes and raised ridges that bend and vibrate to trippy effect.

If you’re familiar with Anderson, it’s likely thanks to his more public-facing role as the co-founder of Apparatus, the modernist lighting and design studio he opened with his husband, Gabriel Hendifar, in 2012. From the start, Hendifar has been the firm’s creative director. In the early days, Anderson, despite a background in public relations, was its maker, spending time perfecting metal patinas and leather detailing. But as the studio grew, so did its administrative needs, taking him away from working with his hands. In his off-hours, though, he began to invest more in his pottery practice, a creative outlet since he was in high school, and for the past several years has spent most weekends in the ceramics studio he and Hendifar built in the backyard of their Rhinebeck, New York, country house.

Now, with Apparatus well established — it currently has more than 70 employees — Anderson will focus on his solo work. He’ll mark the shift this month with an exhibition of his ceramics at the firm’s Manhattan showroom. “I feel a deep connection to Apparatus,” he says, “but having this little thing that’s mine is really special.” Still, he acknowledges, his designs “live in the same world” as those of his husband: While researching an Apparatus collection a couple years ago, Hendifar passed along inspiration images, including a collection of the photographers Bernd and Hilla Becher’s taxonomic pictures of water towers. Their stout silhouettes, familiar from Anderson’s Midwestern childhood, became a point of departure for him, too, as did the Bechers’ ability to imbue inanimate objects with personality. Anderson’s porcelain and stoneware vessels — each with a mouthlike hole that makes them functional as vases — are distinctly humanoid; grouped together, they resemble a tribe of chic aliens clad in Ziggy Stardust onesies. Anderson calls them piccolos, the Italian word for “small,” a bittersweet nod to the nickname given to him in his early 20s by a lover who died in a car accident.

It’s also poignant that in his minimally decorated upstate studio, Anderson’s potter’s wheel looks out onto the woods where he keeps a graveyard of piccolos that perished in the firing process. “Working with clay, it’s inevitable,” he observes. “It’s a life lesson. It really gets you thinking about attachment, and about letting go.”

Balloon artist: Gabby Tjahyadikarta. Photo assistant: Fumi Sugino. Styling assistant: Alvin Manalo.