It’s officially hot chocolate season, which just so happens to be ceramic artist Andrew Nasser’s specialty – especially since creative mugs showing state love are his thing. Nasser’s original line of Bristol-engraved mugs gained traction at Hotpoint Emporium, and at the nudging of his fiancée, Rhode Island-themed pieces were born. “I always love making mugs,” Nasser explains, despite going through phases when it comes to the range of items he makes. “It’s something that people use every morning to start their day, and holding a handmade mug just feels much better in your hands than a mass-produced one.”
Nasser rekindled an old love for crafting ceramics in 2015 through lessons at Mudstone Studios in Warren, where he later became a member. Now, he throws a range of clay vessels, all functional and intuitive in design, but also just a little bit off-kilter, with subtle graphic elements that give each piece personality. “Being a graphic designer by profession, I love to incorporate design into my work,” Nasser explains. “All of my designs start out as sketches, which I clean up and convert into 3D models.” Intricate holiday ornaments and graphic elements added to larger pieces are hand-cut from a slab of clay using the 3D-printed model as a stamp. A little bit of whimsy is infused into popular spoon holder dishes, engraved with a simple nursery rhyme scene: The plate running off with the spoon.
The holiday season also brings a new batch of tree ornaments – all festive motifs, some quirkier than others. While ugly sweaters and polar bears decked in Christmas lights were the stars last year, “This year I’m making Rudolphs and reindeer, letters to Santa, gingerbread men, and elves,” says Nasser. “I also like to make odd ones once in a while. I made some pepperoni pizza ornaments last year.”
From uniquely glazed bowls that bring out the natural clay underneath to artsy trinket boxes with handles sculpted into a paper boat or tentacled sea creature, Nasser’s work embraces the element of surprise in intricate finishing touches. But at the end of the day, it’s the process itself that keeps him coming back. “Throwing on the wheel just feels good,” Nasser explains. “There’s something therapeutic about using my hands to manipulate the clay as it spins, even if I don’t end up making anything in particular. There’s also a lot of process behind it, and it still amazes me to see how much a lump of mud can transform into something that people can use every day.” Find Nasser’s work at Stock Culinary Goods in Providence, Hotpoint Emporium in Bristol, on his online Etsy shop, and popping up at art events, including this year’s Providence Artisans Holiday Show at Hope Artiste Village December 6, 13, and 20.