The City Magazine Since 1975

Meet local ceramist Nadia Stieglitz, whose organic ceramic sculptures stir the imagination

Meet local ceramist Nadia Stieglitz, whose organic ceramic sculptures stir the imagination
October 2022

See the artist's work this month at the Gibbes Museum of Art

Artist Nadia Steiglitz transitioned from painting to ceramics after taking a class at Cone 10 Studios and says she feels more aligned with her work.

About the size of a loaf of bread or a manageable pumpkin, each of Nadia Stieglitz’s rounded, ceramic sculptures has a distinct personality. There is so much movement in the shapes, it’s as if something inside is trying to gently and gracefully emerge. Though Stieglitz uses a neutral palette, many of her works are intricately patterned or textured, adding a layer of visual intrigue—a process she’ll soon get to explore more during her visiting artist residency at the Gibbes Museum of Art that begins October 24.

Born and raised in France, Stieglitz lived in London and Brooklyn before moving to Charleston in 2016. She studied painting, photography, and graphic design in her early 40s, though her ceramic work is a self-taught endeavor. As a former publishing executive and founder of Mice at Play, a women’s movement that emphasizes the importance of play, her work seeks to explore her understanding of womanhood and femininity. In the past couple of years, she has switched her artistic focus from painting to ceramics.

Stieglitz is inspired by the environment, and she says she seeks to explore her understanding of womanhood and femininity in her work.

Now in her 50s, Stieglitz has been covered in Art Seen (a contemporary arts magazine), included in group shows and competitions, and recognized as an “Emerging Artist” at Greenville’s Artisphere festival. Her work is represented locally at The George Gallery and at The Vendue Hotel. Reflecting on her welcome to the local art scene, she muses, “For the first time in a long time, I find I’m totally aligned with what I’m supposed to do.”

The Shift to Ceramics: When I moved here, I didn’t know anyone. My kids discovered Cone 10 Studios and booked a hand-building class with instructor Margaret Weinberg. I loved it. Being able to make 3-D art was a revelation, and clay was a medium that ignited infinite inspiration. When COVID-19 hit, I started making ceramic sculptures from my kitchen table, experimenting with various hand-building techniques.

Shaping Up: I use a lot of techniques, but primarily slab building. I flatten the clay and then shape it with objects I find. Sometimes I use balloons to help hold the structure or guide the shape.

Staying Neutral: The neutral palette I use is in part because I work with clay, but also because it makes me feel connected to the earth. If I use color, I really have to think about creating an object that is more [a design element]. I love color (my paintings show it), and at some point I will experiment with them more in ceramics. My next project is to learn how to create my own glazes, because I struggle with finding commercial ones that suit my pieces.

Plans for the Gibbes Residency: I want to create work that is inspired by our natural environment. Recently, I’ve become interested in the marine ecosystems and coastal landforms found in Charleston. I’ve been exploring the marsh for patterns and observing the rhythmic topography that is seen along the shore. Conservation is important to me, so I also hope that this focus can help raise awareness.

Vision for the Future: Years ago, becoming an artist was exploratory and therapeutic. Today it’s vocational, and I allow myself to be ambitious in a low-key way. Things need to flow and be natural, but there are specific goals I would like to achieve. I hope to be represented in New York and to be shown in a ceramic biennial in London or Switzerland. I would also love to be involved in creating an organization that works with local artists to support their craft and allows them to learn from each other!