Connie Norman
Connie Norman

Posts Tagged ‘jonathan kaplan’

Jonathan Kaplan – Plinth Gallery Artist Interview Part 2

Thursday, February 28th, 2013


Back with Artist Interviews again! Jonathan Kaplan has his second interview on my blog, (read the first interview here.)  Jonathan is the owner and curator of Plinth Gallery in Denver, Colorado.

“Divertimento” opens at Plinth Gallery on First Friday, March 1, with an artist reception from 6-9pm.

The exhibition runs through March 30th. 

Building on the 2011 exhibition, “Prelude” at Plinth and most recently, “Ceramic Forms” at Laramie County Community College, Kaplan continues to explore the textured slab and his signature use of industrial parts and fittings in this new body of work. The pieces in “Divertimento” reflect his interpretation of the theme of parts and wholes, or what Kaplan refers to as “the combination of singular objects combined to make complex forms.”

Incorporating wheel thrown, hand-built, and press-molded ceramic parts, Kaplan builds both sculptural and functional vessels including large basins, condiment sets, serving pieces and teapots. His deft use of industrial parts such as phenolic ball knobs, metal handles, shaft collars, and coated cable provides both a visual and structural counterpoint to the ceramic form and surface. In addition, his bird and fish forms appear, as seen previously in his “Nouveau Moche” series as well as his “Plinthed Vessel Series”. -Plinth Gallery

For more information on Jonathan and Plinth Gallery make the jump here.

You have a solo show coming up at Plinth Gallery; I hear that you have chosen musical titles for this exhibition and at Plinth in 2011.  How did you come up with the title of “Divertimento” for your show?

Classical music has very interesting structures and can take many forms. Having been a student of both classical piano and flamenco guitar in my past, I understand some of how music can be put together. There are small parts, sections, or elements that are combined to present a larger part. For instance, in music dynamics,  the opening of a the first movement in a piano concerto might be played forte or loudly, and then it transitions decrescendo, decreasing in volume and tempo soon thereafter. The analogy for the work in this exhibition the “parts and wholes”, how it is constructed from smaller parts that comprise and whole, of completed piece. The first exhibition “Prelude” ( a movement or section of a work that comes before another movement or section of a work, although the word also has been used for short independent pieces that may stand alone), was the beginning of this theme “Divertimento” (an composition usually in a number of movements)  is the next step in moving this body of work forward.

Can you tell us what you are making?

I have included new large basin constructions and an entirely new grouping of handbuilt teapots. The fish and bird elements have again surfaced and have now become fully integrated into some of these pieces.


When and how did you discover the passion for ceramics?

While I was intrigred with how ceramic objects were made when my first instructor, Rebecca Willis at Oakwood School, made a piece on the wheel.

I think my passion for ceramics began when I saw Edward   Kidder’s book  “Jomon Ceramics” and learned that the history or ceramics paralled, or even charted the evolution of cultures and of human beings.

I’ve been a fan of your work for a long time now, and I notice that you approach to clay is to incorporate industrial components together to make your work.  Would you elaborate where that idea came from?

I had a ceramic  manufacturing business for many years and there was enough forming and finishing equipment to whet the appetite of any potter.  It was important to have spare parts on hand and I was already a customer of Grainger’s, McMaster-Carr supply, MSC, and a host of other industrial suppliers.  Browsing these incredible compendiums of “more stuff then you could possibly imagine”, I wondered what I might do with some of these parts.  Over time, I have learned that more is less, and I now have good selection of industrial fitting, fasteners, components, cable, rubber hose, etc. that I incorporate in the design of the work.  I am also enamored with how clay is the antitheses of all these parts.


Over the last few years I have had the pleasure of seeing the bodies of work you produce, with every body of work you have a new series, and how do you come up with each series? 

 I spend a good deal of time thinking about what I might make and how it will take shape. I struggled for a while with the idea of what constitutes a “ signature body of work”. After much anxiety, fear, and being told that I overly think stuff way too much, I realized that what I needed to do was to determine what my strengths were as a ceramic artist. For me, one of my strengths was form and design. So I then began to approach what I could make from a design point of view. Process then just became a means to an end. I just don’t get all that caught up in ways of working or of ascribing judgment or dogma to any particular way of working with clay. Time is just too short for such mental machinations.


Has a significant personal experience shaped your work?

I worked as a professional mold and model maker for 16 years and it provided with an entirely new context about looking at ceramics. And how important it was for potters and ceramic artists to look at how ceramics are made industrially.  We need to look at the ceramics industry really as an ally rather than a foe. There is an incredible amount of information that can be of significant benefit to our studio practice if we would only take off the blinders and open our eyes. Well, we need to ask the right questions first…..

In you last interview you talked about working in your studio 5 or 6 hours a day.  How do you maintain a rigorous and consistent studio practice?

I have found that if I have a goal to work towards, it is a bit easier to maintain a rigorous or perhaps better put, a consistent studio practice. I am very easily distracted and am learning how to deal with this. Sometimes I think I am a slow learner. Ideas keep me motivated, but sometimes it is difficult to get started. Like most of us, there are so many other things that are necessary to get done during the course of a day! I know, all our plates are overflowing…….

What techniques do you usually work with and what is your favorite tool?  

I don’t have a particular technique that I usually work with. It all depends on what the idea is, then I can decided what I need to use or work with. If I think a particular item or part needs to be press molded or slip cast, then that is the technique I will employ. For instance, when designing the teapots in this exhibition, I had a particular curved spout in mind and, the obvious way to make this was in a press mold. I carved a plaster model and then made a simple 2 part press mold to make the spout.

However, I have a growing list of favorite tools: I use two Slabmats and  a Yixing mallet to beat out my slabs. I then use a rolling pin and two equally sized wooden strips to make a slab of a particular thickness. I do have a very nice selection of Bison tools. A substantial mechanical pencil with an assortment of leads, a Foray brand rolling ball .5mm(fine) or .7mm(medium) pen, and my sketchbook are favorites. I am starting to draw on my iPad using Paper53 or Noteshelf  (both apps). These are all very cool tools.

If you could do one thing much better, what might it be?

I can’t isolate just one thing, however…….

My time management skills need to be improved for sure.

I do not draw very well freehand, but I can get the idea across. I would like to be a better draftsman.

My typing skills are absolutely horrendous. They need work as I devote too much time to making corrections.

As someone who has been involved with ceramics for al long time, is there one important thing you might share?

Sure.  For me it is important to give back in some substantial way and to pay it forward. Currently, in am on the board of the Studio Potter journal. The journal is the documentation of how we work within the context of being part of a larger society. It is the chronicle of experience as potters and ceramic artists, a compendium of ideas. It is an important part of our ceramic culture and has been so for the past 40 years. We need your help to continue for the next  40 years.  So if you would like to join and receive this quality publication twice a year, please email me. (

Jonathan and Dorothy @ Plinth Gallery

Tell us what you do for fun when you’re out of the studio.

I wish I could spend more time outside of the studio! Gallery work keeps me quite busy, and I certainly would not have any studio practice whatsoever if it were not for the hard work of my wife Dorothy.  She runs the back end, so to speak, of the gallery. Her hard work and involvement with Plinth Gallery are truly responsible for its success. Thanks sweetie!


I have never thought of myself as an athlete or particularly athletic.

Nonetheless, I am an avid bicyclist and aside from being great exercise, any riding I do helps relieve stress for me. I have skied since my dad taught me at age 5, so I get out twice a week during ski season on my alpine or telemark boards.

Thanks for visiting the blog and taking time to read all about Jonathan.  I hope you take a minute to comment to let Jonathan and myself you’ve stopped by.


Jonathan Kaplan @ Laramie County Community College

Tuesday, December 4th, 2012

My dear friend Jonathan Kaplan had a show at Laramie County Community College last month.  If you are a regular reader of this blog you will know that Jonathan is the owner of Plinth Gallery in Denver, Colorado.  (It is also one of the galleries that I have my work.)  Jonathan’s solo show named Ceramic Forms was up for the month of November, and it was a fantastic show.  Jonathan explored three forms for his show, the double walled basin, the teapot and the tray, and many of his pieces were standing on his trademark plinth.  I am proud that world class ceramics graces our town upon occasion.  Jonathan also gave the students of LCCC a workshop.  I really enjoyed his workshop, it was funny and extremely informative.

I’ve taken many workshops at Plinth Gallery and also taught one, and Jonathan is clearly in charge there but after introductions he becomes a part of the audience. But the biggest reason I loved Jonathan’s workshop was got to see him front and center teaching and explaining his work.  It was great to see Jonathan as workshop guru!




Jonathan Kaplan Mold Making Workshop @ Plinth Gallery!

Tuesday, November 15th, 2011

On December 3-4th, Jonathan Kaplan will instruct a two-day workshop on mold-making, in the Plinth Gallery Studio.  Please see the attached flyer.   Cost is $150/person for both days which includes all materials, and lunch.   Please contact the Gallery if you are interested in attending this workshop, and feel free to forward to anyone you  know who may be interested.  This will be our last workshop for 2011, and coincides with our exhibition of Jonathan’s own work in the Gallery.

Jonathan Kaplan – Plinth Gallery Artist – Modern Moche

Wednesday, December 1st, 2010

First Friday Opening  December 3rd, 6-9pm at Plinth Gallery in Denver, Colorado.

Exhibition on display through January 29, 2011

Reception with the Artist

Plinth Gallery’s website:

More info about Jonathan:

In December, Plinth Gallery proudly exhibits new ceramic work by artist Jonathan Kaplan in the show “Modern Moche”. 

Jonathan Kaplan newest work can be seen in the show “Modern Moche”. Glimpses of this work have been previously shown at the Foothills Art Center “Colorado Clay” exhibition, The Art Students League of Denver, as well as other exhibitions in Colorado, Nevada, Texas and California. Now, the entire collection, including new pieces and new glaze surfaces, will be on display at Plinth. 

The Moche (pronounced “Mo’-chie”) culture flourished on the northwest coast of Peru between 100AD-800AD. Their style of pottery-making often used both animal and human forms on vessels and included a distinctive  “stirrup spout”, serving as both handle and pouring spout. Moche ceramics became easily recognizable by this signature feature. Kaplan uses the stirrup spout in this current body of work appropriately called Nouveau, (or New) Moche.

Kaplan, who has mastered the ceramic slip cast process, duplicates items such as children’s toys, corrugated tubes or found objects, which he assembles into highly structured vertical sculptures.  The distinctive stirrup spout provides both a cultural and historical perspective and the use of stylized animal forms imparts a subtle sense of humor to this body of work.

Jonathan did a interview with me this past  February, make the jump to read it. 

It’s been almost a year that I have been working with Jonathan at Plinth Gallery. He has introduced me to so many impressive artists in the ceramic field.  I am grateful that he has helped me to interview so many incredible artists on my blog.  Thank you Jonathan heres to another great year!!  And I’m really looking forward to my show at Plinth in May.

A Visit To Plinth Gallery

Wednesday, June 2nd, 2010

Last Monday, Memorial Day I drove down to Denver to deliver some work to Plinth Gallery.  This Friday (June 4) is the opening of Jen Allen’s show (see her interview below) and the third anniversary of the gallery.  For the festivities Jonathan Kaplan, Plinth’s owner asked if I would bring a few pieces down for the celebration.  I’m delighted to have work as part of the birthday, and thrilled to be having a show at Plinth in the fall of 2011!!!



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Here is Jonathan in the back room of the gallery with my work.  If you’re following the interviews Jonathan was interviewed on my blog in February.  If you missed his interview click here.

Saturday was a big delivery day, Laura from DIA (Denver International Airport) met me at Plinth to pick up the rest of the commission.  It felt really good to get it finished and delivered.  It was a lot of late nights making pots for them.  (I will post images of the pots in the next post.)  They will be on display in the offices of DIA, until they are given to Mayor Hickenlooper and the Denver City Council in July.  I’ve been told that they will send pictures of the event.  I’ll post them on the blog when I get them.

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Another view of the back room of the gallery and Jonathan.  I love the built in shelving for the mugs and cups, a potter’s dream.  Plinth is the only gallery dedicated solely to ceramics in the Denver and Front Range region of Colorado.  It is  located in the River North Art District (Rino), which is Denver’s new and fast growing art area.


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A view of a very small part of Hayne Bayless’  show and work, and the front of gallery.  Also a few pots made by Lisa Pedolsky, who is going to have an interview on the blog soon.

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I wanted to get more pictures of the gallery, but these guys were waiting soooooo patiently to go to the Denver Zoo.  I was rushed with the pictures.   We had a great day at the zoo, with my friend Sherry and her kids.  It was so fun to watch the kids discover the animals.  And I got to use my new found knowledge of exotic animals, from my extensive studies of  Go Diego Go, The Wonder Pets, and Dora the Explorer.

Jonathan Kaplan: Artist Interview and Studio Inspiration

Thursday, February 11th, 2010


Black birds

Plinth Gallery’s website:

More info about Jonathan:

Jonathan’s artwork is impeccably designed with a commitment to craftsmanship and attention to detail.  His work combines so many different types of building, thrown, hand built, and slip casted.  Hopefully, you made it to his show last month, a Four Decades in Clay, A Jonathan Kaplan Retrospective.  He exhibited work from his undergrad days, to the pieces he is currently making. 

Jonathan is the owner of the stunning Plinth Gallery, in Denver Colorado.  I am extremely honored to be able to have a show there in 2011. 

Tell us a little about yourself!

I have been fortunate to work in ceramics for 40 years. I needed a few credits to complete my high school education and took a ceramics class. For a graduation present, my parents sent me Alfred University for summer session. At that point my career path in medicine was derailed! I studied architecture for a number of years at Case Western Reserve University and then completed my undergraduate education at Rhode Island School of Design and then earned my graduate degree in ceramics from Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville. My first pottery studio was outside of Reading Pennsylvania during the phenomenal growth of the craft industry in the 1970’s and 1980’s. After moving to Colorado to begin a new career to the ski and bike industry in Telluride and then Steamboat Springs Colorado, I returned to ceramics and started Ceramic Design Group, a contract design and manufacturing studio. We worked with many clients and produced a large quantity of ceramics during that time. In fact, I authored an article in the current Studio Potter magazine about my experiences during those years. I moved to Denver in 2006 after 15 years as a ceramics manufacturer working for others and now work for myself and curate Plinth Gallery. (

Gone Fishin'

What is your inspiration for your pieces?

I have a healthy respect for ceramic history and find that to be an unlimited source for ideas. My interest in architecture and design also keeps me fueled.

Blue Fish

What do you create? Where do you get your inspiration for your ceramics?

 My work has always been rooted in the vessel form and the infinite possibilities of it’s interpretation. My current work references the Moche Culture, 100-800 C.E., from the Northwest Coast of Peru

Birds Out

What is the most important thing you’d like people to know/understand about your work?

 I want my work to engage the viewer on many levels. Perhaps the most important one is that of content. The work must be visually interesting and made with out compromise in craftsmanship. With the plethora of ceramics available, I want my work to provoke questions, not so much about how the work is made but what is it about, and why?

JK birdw_stirupspout1

What keeps you motivated?

 My desire to always make new work that exceeds my expectations. I want to surprise myself. Those small bits inspiration that yield an

“Ah-Ha!” moment for me are incredibly gratifying and present new ways of seeing.

JK fish_birdw_stirupspout3

What or who inspires you?

I like the work of Kristin Keiffer, Alleghany Meadows, Sam Chung, Sam Harvey, Lorna Meaden, Blair Meerfeld, Elizabeth Robinson just to mention a few of the many ceramic artists making intimate objects for daily use. I enjoy large scale clay work by Stephen deStaebler and Jun Kaneko, and the large scale steel/iron construction by Richard Serra. Other ceramic artists I admire are Dan Anderson, Marek Cecula, Kathy Erteman, Hayne Bayless,and William Daley.I find the architecture of Frank Gehry inspiring.

JK fishw_stirupspout2

Are you a full-time artist?

Yes I am a full time artist and attempt to devote 5-6 hours a day in the studio. However, life does get in the way and there are certainly many times that I cannot devote that daily schedule in the studio. I recently renovated an old warehouse in the River North Arts District( in downtown Denver and while the renovations have been completed, there is always work to do! The gallery is a full time job and my wife Dorothy has taken it to task and is doing a wonderful job with all the minutia of the business of running Plinth Gallery.

Green Luggage

Tell us about your Gallery? When and why did you decide to start your business?

 I moved to Denver in 2006 and immediately observed that Denver needed a gallery that is devoted solely to ceramics. Plinth Gallery is a pristine venue for the sculptural ceramic vessel offering works by career and upcoming ceramic artists. We feature 9 monthly one person exhibitions by artists that have not shown in this area. The gallery also represents work by approximately 12 ceramic artists the Plinth Gallery Collection. We provide both an exhibition space as well as an educational venue for the community to bring exceptional work to existing collectors and those interested in acquiring ceramics as new collectors.

Innuendo Cup

What advice would you give to someone starting a creative business?

Follow your muse. Get whatever education you need for the creative aspects and do not neglect the business parts of whatever it is that you are doing. Prepare yourself to make many mistakes but understand that this is all part of the educational process necessary for you work smart and avoid working hard. These are very challenging times for artists and demand challenging, insightful, and non-linear thinking. Think outside of the box and try not to become discouraged. If you wish to succeed, keep your eye on the prize and always keep it in sight.

Thanks Jonathan, great interview.

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