Arrowmont Connections: Laura Peery, ceramicist

Inspired by a love for vintage textiles, clothing design and fanciful embellishment, Laura Peery constructs whimsical worlds made of porcelain clay. From the first time her hands were in clay, she knew that she had found her career.

Laura creates her clay work as if cutting a dressmaker’s pattern.

Her grandmother had a dress shop in New Orleans, where Laura lived in her earliest years. The attic of the store was where alterations were done. The customer could have a garment altered so that each hem, shoulder, or waist was a perfect fit. The tiny workroom was stuffed with sewing machines, bins of scraps, threads of all colors, buttons, pins, scissors and more. The riot of color and sense of endless possibility continues to inspire her, even today.


She was drawn to the softness of the material. Clay can be made to mimic many materials, and it was no accident that Laura quickly noticed the way it could resemble fabric.  Over the years the work has evolved to include teapots, vases and doll-like figures.  She continues to employ many basic hand building techniques. Laura textures the clay with vintage fabrics and adds seams, ruffles, darts and buttons of clay. Porcelain is her preference, which shows off colors and imprinted textures especially well. Many of the pieces tell a story, some of which are hinted at in the title of the piece, some of which remain open for the viewer to guess.

Laura worked as a potter’s apprentice; went to graduate school; served as a teaching fellow and a resident artist. While thinking about a teaching job, she began selling her clay sculptures: ornaments, fanciful shoes, hats and bags, in Georgetown, Washington DC. Her first craft show was American Craft Council’s Baltimore show. She was included in the Smithsonian’s “American Porcelain: New Expressions in an Ancient Art” which opened up a new world of possibilities. She showed and sold her work in galleries and shops for many years before taking on a teaching job in a Maryland high school. Now, having relocated to Asheville, NC, Laura is once again able to concentrate full time on her art.

The notion of stitching is integral to Laura’s work. To stitch is to repair or piece together something worn or ill-fitting, or to create something entirely new by joining many small, unrelated parts.

The act of stitching can be a meditative process, almost a prayer.

The process of stitchery usually falls into the category of “women’s work”, but really the task belongs to all of us to keep things from falling apart, within ourselves and with each other, to stitch it all back together.

Laura Peery is a ceramicist living in Asheville, North Carolina. Raised in Washington DC and New Orleans, Louisiana, Peery completed an MFA at George Washington University. She taught and demonstrated ceramics in workshops, after-school programs and middle and high school classrooms across the country for over 40 years. Her work is published in 500 Figures in Clay: Ceramic Artists Celebrate the Human Form by Veronika Alice Gunter and “Threads,” Ceramics Monthly by Ed Wargo. Her work appears in permanent collections including the Fuller Craft Museum, Brockton, Massachusetts, Cameron Art Museum, Wilmington, North Carolina, and the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Renwick Gallery, Washington, DC. She exhibits nationally and is a member of the Southern Highland Craft Guild and Odyssey Clayworks in Asheville, North Carolina.

She uses porcelain to build sculptures, many in the form of nonfunctional teapots. She also makes functional pieces, particularly mugs. The color on the work is brushed, sprayed and rubbed on giving the surfaces a soft patina.

All of her work is inspired by her experiences in her grandmother’s fabric shop. Her teapots and mixed media sculptures are built by assembling cut pieces of clay. a process similar to clothing construction. She often creates surface texture by pressing cloth onto the surface. Buttons and other dress making notions that are added after firing often appear on the pieces.


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