Andrew Molleur’s Kingston Studio Features Fine Art Ceramics
Ceramics is an art passed down over centuries and across nearly every culture, and for designer and sculptor Andrew Molleur, it feels like the most human thing one can do. “I feel like I could have been born at any point in our history and I might still be doing the same trade. There’s something comforting about that.” That sense of history and Andrew’s background in architecture are evident in the fine art pieces, inlaid vessels, and other slip-cast forms he creates in his 1,600 square-foot Kingston-based studio.
Andrew’s interest in clay was piqued the summer before high school when his mother enrolled him in throwing lessons. He was hooked: “Ceramic is such a versatile material,” Andrew said. “It can be that really muddy, sensuous, curved form, but it can also be really sharp, crisp, and mechanical.” His newfound love led him to the Rhode Island School of Design where he studied architecture and industrial design in addition to ceramics. After graduation he went to work in a Manhattan architecture firm, but felt trapped in front of a computer all day. He reconnected with a fellow artist from RISD who needed help at her studio in Woodstock, and for Andrew, who had grown up in rural Eastern Connecticut, the choice to leave the city and head upstate was an easy one.
Andrew turns all of his cylindrical molds on a plaster lathe he rigged himself after spending time in Europe, where the practice is far more common than in the U.S. “I was taking mental notes and rough measurements and photographs so that when I came back, I built this.”
Andrew designs and builds all of the molds used to create his forms. Here, several of his vessel and tray molds are stored for easy access. “I look at the molds sometimes and they end up being almost more beautiful than what comes out of them.”
“These are samples of each [clay] color; I’ll do a run of five different shades of each color and keep them here,” says Andrew. “It’s not only a test to see if the stain is compatible with the clay body, but it’s also for me to see visually what my palette is.”
About two years ago, Andrew had the privilege of working at the Meissen factory in Germany for three months. Meissen was the first European ceramic factory to discover the recipe for porcelain, which, until that point, had only been known by the Chinese. “It was a phenomenal experience. I was working with master mold-makers and having 300 years of knowledge on your side is pretty amazing.” He was able to smuggle this carving knife and paintbrush out of the factory to commemorate his experience.
Before a plaster mold can be used, Andrew must first true up the sides and top to form a perfect cylinder. The board he holds across the top is used to stabilize his hand and prevent shaking, which leaves bumps in the plaster.
“I did a collaboration with Materia Designs last month and this is actually a piece they chose for me to replicate,” said Andrew. “Ceramics shrink 12% so these are my measurements to un-shrink it.” The vessel was made to complement the design and functionality of one of Materia’s cutting boards to create a modern serving platter.
Andrew’s kiln holds pieces fresh out of the glaze-firing phase and contains work for Materia Designs as well as custom dinnerware he created for a client.
The graphic designs on Andrew’s pieces are not glazed or painted on, but rather individual inlaid pieces of colored porcelain. And the texture you can see on this stack of bowls? “That’s an accumulated texture that happens over time from me continuously using the same molds and inlaying different colors of porcelain into one bowl,” he said.
Perhaps surprisingly for some, Andrew’s works are as much about art as they are about science. To achieve the understated, yet refined simplicity and elegance of his pieces requires extensive experimentation and meticulous note-keeping. “It’s all about testing and having the right ratios and seeing what materials work with other materials, so there’s an extreme amount of planning when it comes to ceramics,” Andrew said. “I record all the tests that I do and this top notebook corresponds to all the colors that I have. Each color has a number stamped into the back of it and I can go into my notebook and see what color and what percentage it is and make life easy for myself.”
The Andrew Molleur logo, which Andrew designed himself, is a monogram of his initials.