This Sarasota Artist’s Porcelain Sculptures Are An Ode To Simplicity


Ceramicist Anja Palombo manipulates clay on the potter’s wheel in her Sarasota studio

Ceramicist Anja Palombo manipulates clay on the potter’s wheel in her Sarasota studio.

Inside her modest Sarasota home studio—a converted two-car garage shaded by an old-growth oak tree—you’ll find Anja Palombo behind the potter’s wheel, shaping and manipulating clay to form the components of her abstract, stark sculptures. Although she hasn’t always solely worked in ceramics, it’s this meditative and admittedly volatile process of throwing that the German-born artist is rather besotted with. “It has a force of its own,” says Palombo, whose robust academic background in fine art, painting, art history and linguistics helps inform her practice. “It’s half out of control and half in control. The creative process takes on a life of its own, and it’s just lovely.”

collection of small sculptures by anja palombo

The artist creates curvy, minimalist sculptures.

a close-up of one of palombo's minimalist white sculptures

A close-up of one of Palombo's sculptures.

a shelf of anja palombo's sculptures on display in her studio

The artist works in unglazed porcelain and stoneware.

anja palombo holding a sketchbook of ideas

Her ideas begin as sketches.

three of anja palombo's sculptures resting on a table

Born in Germany, the artist embraces simplicity.

Once the physics at the wheel are conquered, Palombo assembles the resulting pieces into larger structures, creating poetic works of contemporary art that evoke elements of the natural world. The curvaceous sculptures in her ongoing “Head in the Clouds” series, for instance, reference both the metaphorical and literal clouds that, per the artist, “connect us all through the water, beauty and data they hold.” Her “Bodies” series pays homage to ancient Cycladic art and provides commentary on the shared human experience that transcends time. The ideas come to her in waves—often, aptly, while she’s swimming in the ocean—and sometimes like a tsunami, at which point she’ll intuitively sketch the silhouettes she sees in her mind’s eye (a phase she calls “electric brainstorm”).

Beyond their connective tissue to nature, Palombo’s works also share an ethereal quality in their starkness. The white porcelain and stoneware sculptures, sometimes partially glazed, are deliberately left bare as an ode to ancient, earthy materials and simplicity. “To me, minimalism is about editing,” she says. “How much can you remove while still keeping the essence?”

Ever curious, the artist is always on the hunt for new possibilities in her practice. Lately, she has been experimenting with glaze recipes and studying old Chinese and Korean coatings for a new series of blossom-inspired chalice designs. She is itching to revisit plaster as a medium and is even collaborating on a boundary-pushing augmented reality project. “The ideas naturally progress one into the other,” Palombo observes. “You stick with your theme and give it some time, and suddenly you’re seeing it with different eyes and moving in a new direction.”