Laurel Lukaszewski: A Force Behind Washington's Ceramics Movement

Ceramic artist Laurel Lukaszewski, above left, works in her studio. Fragile strings of coiled stoneware, above, adorn some of her pieces.
Ceramic artist Laurel Lukaszewski, above left, works in her studio. Fragile strings of coiled stoneware, above, adorn some of her pieces. (By Dominic Bracco Ii For The Washington Post)
Friday, April 17, 2009

"When you're working in clay," says Laurel Lukaszewski, "you'd have a tough time if you worry about breakage."

The ceramic artist is pretty laid-back when it comes to the not-infrequent mishaps that befall her elaborate sculptural installations, some of which consist of hundreds of tiny, interchangeable pieces: delicate white tendrils of coiled porcelain, or black strings of linguine-like stoneware, for instance. Once fired and hardened, it's all too easy for a component to snap in two, like the fragile handle of a teacup.

No problem, Lukaszewski says. She just replaces it with another, similar-looking piece.

You won't find many teacups at Lukaszewski's unfussy Flux Studios, a loose-knit consortium of like-minded artists, several of whom are at the vanguard of the area's contemporary clay-art movement. "I would not encourage people to visit us if they want bowls and pots," she says. "They wouldn't be interested in what we're doing."

What she is doing is making sculpture that just happens to be made out of clay, a material that isn't especially esoteric or hard to get. "It's like Play-Doh, basically," Lukaszewski says. At the same time, her work is probably like little else you've ever seen.

It certainly is like little else the artist herself has seen. And she has taken her work on the road to exhibitions in such far-flung places as St. Louis, Miami and Bainbridge Island, Wash. Looking around at what other artists are doing today with ceramics, Lukaszewski feels confident that there's something unique happening right here at home. "First of all, you don't see a lot of clay, period," she says. " And when you do, it's not really anything like what you see in D.C."

As part of CraftWeek DC, Flux Studios, at 3708 Wells Ave., Mount Rainier, will be open to the public April 24 from 10 a.m. to noon, when Lukaszewski will work on assembling a 3-D "sketch" of a large piece that will be installed at the U.S. Botanic Garden this summer. Part of "Flora: Growing Inspirations," the sculpture will be on view May 23 to Oct. 12.


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