Danny Kaplan draws inspiration from a wide range of international influences. The Brooklyn-based artist’s hand-made ceramics reference everything from the work of German modernist Hans Coper to French designer Jean-Michel Frank and ancient Greek, Mayan and Chinese pottery. “I greatly appreciate and value attention to craft, beauty in simplicity and a commitment to original work,” he tells Business of Home.
Born in New York and raised in Aix-en-Provence, France, Kaplan grew up surrounded—and inspired—by the latter region’s brightly glazed earthenwares. In 2001, he returned to New York and earned a degree in creative writing, art history and fine arts from The New School before taking a job as a prop stylist and set designer. “I really loved the composition of prop styling and the idea that selecting the perfect object was always considered a pursuit,” he says.
In 2015, he enrolled in an eight-week course at La Mano Pottery studio in Manhattan and fell head over heels for the craft. Just a year later, he launched his namesake studio inside a former bottling factory in Brooklyn, selling hand-thrown dinner plates to buyers at ABC Carpet & Home in New York and Lawson-Fenning in Los Angeles, among others. “I realized I really valued creating work with my hands,” says Kaplan. “I love the tactility of hand-thrown ceramics—there is something very liberating and fulfilling about throwing at the wheel.”
All of Kaplan’s pieces are forged partially on the wheel, then hand-built from sculpting clay. Each design begins with a rough sketch that he and his team of skilled artisans use to guide their forms and, eventually, finishes. “The resilience of sculpting clay allows us to stretch the bounds of the medium,” he says. “The process starts with a variety of different ceramic techniques, starting with wheel throwing and coil- and slab-building. Then, we coat each individual piece with engobe, slips and experimental color-rich glazes to give it the studio’s distinct finish. Once out of the kiln, the pieces have a smooth matte texture that evokes the Old World and the modern.”
Though he initially designed dinnerware, Kaplan has since expanded his studio’s offerings with large-scale furnishings including tables, lamps and chairs. “Unlike painting or fine art work, mastering ceramics felt like an objective accomplishment in that if I set out to make a bowl and it functioned as a bowl, I had succeeded in my pursuit—unlike fine art, which is open for interpretation,” he says. “Once I mastered the actual craft, I could really home in on defining my aesthetic.”
While form reigns supreme for Kaplan, functionality plays a pivotal role in his designs. “My goal is to ultimately blend beauty with utility,” he says. “I really like elemental forms—orbs, bowls, horns and half-moons. Simple shapes stacked elegantly with a focus on composition and balance are key tenets.”
In addition to collaborating with design studio In Common With on a new installment of light fixtures, Kaplan recently debuted the Brick Collection, a series of furniture pieces composed of stacked ceramic blocks bedecked in tactile glazes and intricate wood detailing. “Each piece is produced by a technique called ‘slab-building,’ which is a way to create rectilinear shapes that could never be produced using a potter’s wheel,” he says. “The slab is rolled and then allowed to slowly dry to the leather-hard stage before being cut and joined with other stiffened slabs and constructed into bricks.”
Looking ahead, Kaplan says his studio will continue to experiment with new shapes and techniques while striving to balance aesthetics with usability. “We’re constantly innovating and problem-solving to create structurally strong pieces that don’t compromise on design.”
Homepage image: An assortment of vessels by Danny Kaplan | Courtesy of Danny Kaplan Studio