Eric Bonnin Studio Tour: Effortless and Timeless Ceramics

Words by Jennine Jacob
Photos by Kathrin Leist

 

One of the first things you’ll notice when encountering an Eric Bonnin piece is the lightness of the stoneware. Porcelain-thin with the rich texture of stoneware, the pieces seem to defy the laws of physics. It’s a subtle differentiation, yet strikingly elegant much along the lines of Parisian chic.

It is very rare that a potter can visualize a single product line that becomes successful right off the bat…

Like many potters, Bonnin’s career had taken many paths before arriving on the ceramics scene. Being from France, he studied Art in college but went on to work in PR in Paris with design giants like Mark Newson and Phillipe Starck. There he got a taste for the design world and found it exciting. He then decided to come to New York for three months and happened to have an artist as a roommate who needed help creating a 3-D tile table project for MTV. Even though the tiles were low-fired, Bonnin took an interest in working with clay himself. He started taking wheel-throwing classes at the YWCA which he continued to do on the side as he found pottery to be a great outlet for expressing ideas.

 

In 2008 at the heart of the recession, Bonnin’s job at a Tribeca art gallery was cut down to two days a week. It wasn’t enough to live on in New York City, so wondering what to do, Bonnin decided to take three months off to create a simple collection of ceramics and bring it to the Javits Center for a trade show. That decision changed everything. At the trade show, he got several orders for his collection as well as a write-up in the New York Times.

It is very rare that a potter can visualize a single product line that becomes successful right off the bat, Eric still sells that very same collection today. When creating the line of pottery, he didn’t want to “reinvent the wheel” he focused on classic, timeless design that could be mixed and matched with what a person already had. Pin-pointing the essentials, he wanted to create something easy on the eye, yet exactly what people needed in their kitchen and dining room.

“I have [ceramic] pieces that I use every day and they work well. If you have a good handbag like a Hermes handbag you keep it your whole life.”

Eric’s creative process is rooted in collective memory and the actions we take every day. For example, drinking a cup of coffee in the morning, we just need a simple cup. Bonnin was inspired by everyday objects like tin coffee cups, cafeteria trays, or his grandmother’s mixing bowls which have a spout for pouring. He chose familiar forms so, “when you see it you won’t be afraid of it.” Taking cues from the Bauhaus movement, Bonin adheres to the philosophy, “Form follows function.” Where he differentiates his work from the other ceramicists is in the quality of the craftsmanship. A plate would look like a mere dinner plate, but if you have knowledge of wheel-throwing you’ll see quickly what makes his work different: an inner rim raised above an outer rim which has the narrowest angle that almost lies flat. For those of us who have tried to wheel-throw a plate, it’s an accomplishment that the rim doesn’t collapse at all. His work is simple, yet refined. Something you can use every day or for more formal dining occasions.

“I have to keep that freshness that you have in the beginning… that everything and anything is possible…”

While Eric has made the same pottery line for almost ten years, yet is somehow able to still keep it fresh. He says, “I practice so much, I can sit down and throw 50 mugs at once, and I don’t think about because they are imprinted in my hands… I have to remind myself that I don’t have to rush things. The other day I was frantic and I made these pieces and they were so not pretty. I have to keep that freshness that you have in the beginning… that everything and anything is possible…” 

 

 

 

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