meet the makers | Dec 16, 2021 |
This ceramicist’s minimalist designs elevate functionality to an art form

While some ceramicists strive for perfection, Sherród Faulks finds inspiration in the flaws of his designs. The Portsmouth, Virginia–based artist behind the brand Deep Black handcrafts sleek, heirloomworthy ceramic goods that strike a balance between form and function—often after several rounds of trial and error. “Ceramics is a practice of failure,” he tells Business of Home. “It teaches you how to forgive yourself.”

This ceramicist’s minimalist designs elevate functionality to an art form
The Stash jar with ashtray knob by Deep BlackCourtesy of Deep Black

A software designer by day, Faulks discovered pottery just two years ago while going through a divorce. “I started doing all the things I couldn’t do while I was married, including taking a ceramics class at a community studio with a friend,” he says. “As soon as I touched the clay, I knew that this is what I was supposed to be doing.”

Despite a demanding full-time job, Faulks began making regular visits to the studio in his free time to practice making pottery. “I would go five times a week and work on the wheel for hours at a time,” he says. “I was so enamored with the medium that I wanted to learn everything.”

He describes the process of transforming raw clay into a beautiful, functional object as “meditative,” in part because it’s so easy to make a mistake. “From the moment you sit down at the wheel, so many things can go wrong,” he says. “The clay can dry too fast, crack or collapse. But that potential for failure gives me a certain sense of impunity, so I can truly focus on what’s right in front of me.”

This ceramicist’s minimalist designs elevate functionality to an art form
Ceramic artist Sherród Faulks inside his Virginia studio Courtesy of Deep Black

After months of experimenting with different molds and glazes, Faulks launched Deep Black in March 2020 with a small collection of minimalist tumblers and vessels called Exuberance. Though sales were so-so, he says the debut helped him develop a distinct aesthetic, and more importantly, a unique point of view. “Instead of rushing to release another collection, I started to think more deliberately about color and form.”

All of the artist’s designs start out as a sketch on his iPad, which he uses to loosely guide him while he hand-throws at the wheel. “I’m in constant dialogue with the clay,” he explains. “It’s a one-foot-in-front-of-the-other practice that requires a lot of editing before I reach the desired form.”

A self-proclaimed “student of the Bauhaus,” Faulks says all of his ceramic wares are designed with practicality in mind. “My pieces are functional to a fault,” he explains. Whether it's a mug, planter or tabletop piece, my goal is to streamline an already simple design by paring down its form.”

Both his sold-out Stash jar and Eunice planter offer compelling cases in point. The former is a petite storage container with a lid that moonlights as an ashtray, and the latter an earthenware pot with a built-in plinth that collects dripping water. “I even approach glazing with a purpose,” Faulks says. “If color doesn’t somehow enhance a piece, then it doesn’t need a glaze.”

This ceramicist’s minimalist designs elevate functionality to an art form
The Deep Black Mug in Quartz, Lunar, Opal, Onyx, Topaz and Sapphire Courtesy of Deep Black

The artist’s latest collection, The Holiday Drop, features an assortment of ceramic dinnerware with minimal glazing and curvy, organic silhouettes, including an oversized coffee mug in various finishes and a two-toned snack bowl with an undulating rim. “The forms are simple but recognizable,” he says. “This was a collection made with intention—the culmination of all my previous successes and failures.”

More recently, Faulks launched a limited-run subscription service called Obsidian. Every month (for three months), subscribers receive a box of at least three bespoke Deep Black pieces, as well as artwork from an artist of color, playlists, and journaling prompts based on a monthly theme. “It’s a multisensory experience,” he explains. “I’m trying to create the world I want to see around me.”

To learn more about Sherród Faulks and Deep Black, visit their website or follow them on Instagram.

Homepage photo: The Exuberance collection by Deep Black | Courtesy of Deep Black

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