A Rich History Infuses This S.C. Artist’s Ornate Ceramic Wares


Seated woman in front of a wall with artwork taped to it

Artist Kristen van Diggelen Sloan’s York County, South Carolina, studio provides a retreat to work out ideas in hyper-scale using charcoal, gesso or chalk on paper and unstretched canvas.

Uprooting one’s entire life and moving cross-country is no small feat—but that was the leap of faith made by artist Kristen van Diggelen Sloan in 2014, when the veteran Californian traded life in San Francisco for a 12-acre farmstead in York County, South Carolina. There, she and husband Michael created something of a rural compound, surrounded by heirloom crops, native fauna and ample inspiration. “I live a very quiet existence, with everything I need around me,” Sloan says.

White-glazed plates and bowls stacked on a table

Completed plates and bowls from Sloan's ceramics line, vanIvey, showcase Baroque-inspired ornamentation. The wares are available through the John Michael Kitchens showroom in Charlotte.

Gesso sketches against a wall

Sloan begins each ceramics project with a study.

Shelves stacked with white dinnerware and ceramics

Simple white glazes beautifully showcase the ornamentation of each piece.

Hands shaping clay on a pottery wheel

The artist's complicated process involves a pottery wheel and multi-step molding techniques.

White ceramic works featuring female figure.

As a nod to her mother, Roman Catholic iconography sometimes shows up in Sloan's work, such as these hand-built vases.

It’s a life story Sloan has essentially impressed upon her line of handmade dinnerware and ceramics, vanIvey. From filigrees to Rococo florals, their motifs preserve vestiges of Sloan’s past and present on both coasts. “I’m trying to bridge these California roots with Southern ones,” says the artist, whose sketchbooks brim with fragments of places close to her heart. California seeps through in softer silhouettes that echo her love of Spanish Mission architecture, while local influences show up in splayed lines she borrowed from South Carolina’s iconic palmetto leaf.

The ceramics concept, launched in 2013 as a parallel to Sloan’s fine-art practice, derives from her full family name, Ivey van Diggelen, plus the hand-carved Jacobean furnishings her Dutch immigrant grandparents brought from home. Awed by these since childhood, Sloan says they directly influenced her signature Baroque style. “I love literally taking details from antiques and using those patterns to figure out the ceramics,” says the artist, who sometimes employs silicone putty to capture intricate ornamentations for her wares. Executing each piece is a complex process, beginning with the pottery wheel, then combining hand-building and multi-step molding techniques. For the clay, Sloan favors gray mid-fire stoneware, which proves durable but also “allows a lot of the delicacy of the design to come through,” she notes. To preserve these fine details, she prefers simple white glazes that prevent “losing the simplicity of the forms.”

Following a hiatus to focus on painting, Sloan’s vanIvey venture returns in a retail capacity this month: through her husband’s eponymous John Michael Kitchens showroom in Charlotte. Core to the relaunch is a meditative mandala dinnerware design—a motif threading the intimate origins of Sloan’s ceramics to her fine-art explorations of the patterns that connect us all. “The big question in my practice is about exploring who we are,” she says. “I’m always looking for the conduits to get me there.”