Motivated by spatial psychology and feng shui, Charleston ceramicist Nadia Stieglitz creates vessels imbued with profound meaning. “I give purpose to everything,” says the French-born talent, who relocated to the Holy City in 2016. Although she studied painting during her years in New York, as a ceramicist, Stieglitz remains almost entirely self-taught. “As soon as I touched the clay, it was compulsive,” she reveals. “I had to keep going.”
With a process that combines multiple hand-building techniques, Stieglitz typically fashions her initial stoneware and earthenware forms around a bulbous object. Further contours are added using slab molds and coils.
The resulting biomorphic silhouettes show Stieglitz’s sensitivity to nature—while the fluidity of their forms references femininity. “The rounded curves are reminiscent of the contours of women’s bodies,” she explains. “My sculptures celebrate female sensuality and strength; they are reminders that women are powerful, valuable, worthy of occupying space.”
Operating on intuition, Stieglitz brushes on a layer of watered-down clay, or slip, to impart impromptu patterns on her pieces. “There is something freeing about the spontaneity in my work,” the artist says. “I don’t like things that are too routine.” Once the clay is dry, Stieglitz amplifies the embellishments using the sgraffito technique, an Italian term meaning “scratched.” After applying a layer of contrasting color to the hardened pottery, she etches the surface to reveal the clay beneath. These marks evoke an earthy beauty, referencing botanical motifs, marine organisms or coastal landforms shaped by the changing tides. Their tactility also invites viewers to interact with the pieces beyond the sensation of sight.
Recently, Stieglitz embraced a move within Studio Union, the shared creative space in North Charleston where, on mild days, she and her cohorts lift the garage door, flooding the room with sunlight. Additional square footage allows the artist to increase the scale of her pieces, while a more curated studio environment facilitates greater connection with the collectors and interior designers who commission her work. Says Stieglitz: “Ceramics is a medium capable of exploring complex conceptual ideas. These pieces are not simply decorative objects; they carry messages that can transform or elevate an entire space.”