The organic, almost ancient vessels that Brooklyn-based ceramicist Simone Bodmer-Turner coaxes out of clay have become a staple of considered mantlepieces all over the world. Easily recognised by their amorphous forms that reference anything from Meso-American carafes to Japanese lanterns, Bodmer-Turner’s permanent collection of vases are just one aspect of a growing sculptural practice. She now makes her exhibition debut, ‘Take Part In’, unveiling her first solo show of larger-scale sculptures and furniture at the cult design destination Matter in New York City (until 1 April 2022).

Simone Bodmer-Turner: ‘Take Part In’

white ceramic vessels by simone bodmer-turner

With 25 pieces on view at Matter’s recently inaugurated exhibition space, Matter Projects, Bodmer-Turner showcases a delectable new range of work that will thrill even her most ardent supporters. Driven by a desire to break down the preconceptions that sculptural work is untouchable, Bodmer-Turner has created a range of chairs, following her furniture debut last year, a set of modular-inspired furniture pieces, an array of new sculptures, plus a collection of one-of-a-kind lighting, made in collaboration with Matter. 

‘I wanted to challenge myself to build outside the confines of the size and proportion that ceramic usually allows for,’ she says, while noting the adaptations she had to make to her existing processes. ‘Many of the lighting and sculpture [works] are made of multiple pieces. If they were fired as one, they would droop or sag in the heat of the kiln, but assembled afterward as a puzzle, they are secure and appear to float. I also wanted to transform a material that is typically so hard, heavy, and fragile, and mix [it] with other mediums to create an interactive element that could be functional.’

white ceramic sculptures by simone bodmer-turner

She continues, ‘Most of the lighting has suspended balls or amoeba shapes that are actually connected to a pull-chain within the structure to turn the light on, and each drawer of the side tables and credenzas is shaped individually in wood to fit the shape of the ceramic hole.’ 

Introducing playful elements was key for enticing viewers into interacting with the pieces in a human-centric way. From pulling on a suspended ball to turn a light on, to grasping a seed-shaped knob in order to open a drawer, these tactile invitations push the preconceptions of her chosen material, clay, beyond expectation.

white ceramic sculptures by simone bodmer-turner

‘I really enjoy adding playful moments, like [the] suspended balls, and incorporating miniature functional motifs, like stairs, to sculptural pieces that make the entire work feel like a playground for a smaller world,’ she asserts. ‘With these functional works; I wanted to translate that feeling into a human scale. There’s some small delight and whimsy that I find in that, it’s like being a child and getting to touch something even though you’re not supposed to.’

Many of the ambitious, large-scale pieces have also been made in parts. The credenza, for example, is made ‘like a three-dimensional mosaic, mortared together across its interior faces to build a piece 5ft long and 3.5ft tall’. She adds, ‘[It] would [have been] impossible without having access to a train kiln, and certainly impossible to move without a huge team.’ 

white abstract sculptures by Simone Bodmer-Turner

‘Part of it is the thrill of the challenge,’ she concludes. ‘When I make a sculpture, I naturally make a piece about the dimension of the distance between my elbow and my hand, so intentionally setting out to make something as tall as myself meant a great deal of focus to get the proportions right.

‘I can usually see the entire shape as I work on a smaller scale, but after making this work I found that shapes that felt so simple at first merged together to become something more interesting once I stepped back.’ §

white bold vases shown on a gridded shelving unit, by simone bodmer turner
white ceramic chairs by simone bodmer turner