You Could Say This Montana Artist’s Work Has Curve Appeal


Giselle Hicks in her studio.

At any given time, the artist has as many as 15 different pieces in progress.

Giselle Hicks brings a rigor to the creation of her ceramic vessels, their precision softened by evidence of the artist’s hand. Working with geometric forms—sphere, cylinder, cone, hourglass, zigzag, funnel—Hicks combines the shapes into new silhouettes as she methodically coils and pinches the clay. “The process is tactile and rhythmic,” says Hicks, whose fingerprints dapple the surface of her objects. “By intention, they don’t appear as if lathed on a wheel.”

Shelves of finished pieces display Hicks play with geometry.

Ceramicist Giselle Hicks’ Helena studio contains vessels with geometric compositions.

Small sketches are pinned on an inspiration board.

Sketches of patterns adorn the walls.

A dog relaxes under drawings of future projects and a table of finished pieces.

Sketches of future pieces and finished pieces are found in the studio.

Pigments are stacked in Giselle Hicks' studio.

Jars of pigment display the earthy palette she uses in her work

Hicks works from a studio in the middle of a pasture in Helena, Montana. She was drawn to the area by residencies at the Archie Bray Foundation, a creative center devoted to the ceramic arts, after which—in 2015—she posed herself the question: “What truly moves me?” As making figurative ceramics no longer sparked joy, Hicks turned to work by abstract expressionists such as Agnes Martin for answers. “Her mixture of control, delicacy and restraint resonated,” notes Hicks, who then began to fabricate vessels.

“There’s a richness in objects that you use every day gathered around a table eating, talking, laughing,” Hicks says. “Making vessels is my way of capturing those fleeting experiences.” Given her focus, it’s not surprising that the still lives of bottles and bowls by painter Giorgio Morandi are inspirations; when grouped together, Hicks’ graphic pieces resemble a Morandi composition come to life.

The artist starts her day by sketching shapes and rolling out a huge stack of clay coils. Working on 12 to 15 objects at a time, she uses only her hands, a knife and a banding wheel. Finished pieces are bisque-fired in the kiln, then sanded and washed before being dipped in glaze and refired. Hicks’ muted palette is pulled from the landscape—the cobalt blue of the sky, iron red of the earth, crisp white of the snow, and welcome yellow glow of the winter sun.

Lately, Hicks has been adding texture to the surface of her pots, some of which have a pleated quality evocative of fashion designer Issey Miyake. She has also ventured into appending fringe details to select vases. “I don’t usually embed much playfulness in my work, so this has been really fun,” she adds. 

What hasn’t wavered is Hicks’ mission to make beautiful objects for people to use in their homes. “I always dreamed of being a full-time studio artist,” she says. “Now, when I have a day of making pots ahead of me, I’m just ecstatic.”