Today's ceramists are exploring creative textures and finishes, and even the mass market is offering exciting new examples of the pottery arts. From velvety soft, lacy tealight holders to chunky, colourful platters, there's something for everyone.
You can choose to feature pottery prominently or enlist it as punctuation to other colours and textures in your room.
A piece with lots of pattern punch can be a conversation starter, whether it was created half a world away by a village artisan, or right in your own hometown.
Ceramics also can help tie a space together, picking up elements — a knitted motif or a colour, say — that appear in artwork, throw pillows or rugs elsewhere in the room.
And ceramics are easy to change out when you tire of them.
Homegoods often has cool ceramics that resemble higher end versions. This spring, you'll find a Provence-style, rustic, mustard-hued lamp base with a honeycomb embossment, an array of chic bird-patterned plates in fine china, and several colour-saturated glazed vessels in deep teal or cranberry.
Scandinavian design studio Ferm Living created an ethereal new collection for spring that includes matte white or terra cotta ceramic vases made of stacked spheres and polygons. A series of porcelain pieces, including a teapot and bowl, features a spear geometric in subtle organic tones of charcoal, pale pink, seafoam and curry.
Susan Dwyer, a sculpture major at art school in Chicago, was inspired by the clean, minimal lines of the city's industrial landscape to create a cool series of vessels evoking factory buildings, water towers and silos. All hand-formed, each piece has a unique organic look which is at odds with, yet complementary to, the manufactured structure it represents.
Amy Adams, the brains behind Brooklyn-based Perch studio, has designed a clever series of stacking cups with stenciled rosettes, flowers, garlands or triangles. Available in black and white or turquoise and white, these have a nice folk-arty look and would be versatile little repositories for drinks, flowers or trinkets.
One of the masters of ceramic art, Jonathan Adler, showed his Carnaby collection at the recent New York International Gift Fair. Pieces include the Waves tray and Acid lamp, featuring groovy '70s-inspired graphics. But Adler also has done a lovely group of nature-themed pottery pieces for which he threw the prototype and Peruvian artisans created the finished product. Motifs include leaves, seed pods and barnacles.
West Elm has Maria Moyer's pretty pierced tealight holders and stunning white orbed vases, which look as if they were born in some far-off galaxy. A percentage of sales of her pieces benefit Oceana, a non-profit marine conservation group. John Newdigate's fun blue-and-white-fish painted platters and fish-shaped serveware have a Japanese vibe.
Boston artist Leah Piepgras may have created the ultimate ceramic conversation piece, however. At the New York fair, her Consumption series of porcelain plates was shown at the Model Citizens booth. For a limited edition produced by Pickard China, Piepgras uses anatomical illustrations to draw each stage of the digestive tract from mouth (the tea cup) to, well, the end of the line for food we eat (the dessert plate).
A result of her keen interest in the body and brain, Piepgras says her "map" is "a reminder of the processes that are taking place within you while you're eating, promoting an exercise in mindfulness."
Rendered in a blue-black palette that's less realistic than flesh tones, the plates are beautifully odd. At $750 a set, this would perhaps be better suited to display than dinner.