Anja Palombo on Creating Fragile Beauty

The Sarasota-based ceramicist calls on ancient traditions in porcelain and stoneware to test the limits of expression


Treasure can be fleeting, sometimes crumbling in your hands or shattering in misstep. That’s true in life, as well as in art, insists Sarasota-based ceramicist Anja Palombo, who spends her days covered in clay creating sculptural pieces of porcelain and stoneware.

With her surroundings for inspiration and thoughts for company, Palombo considers what is possible as she pulls the clay taller or forms hollow spaces in the slippery medium before it hardens in the kiln, adjusting the firing temperatures to achieve the finish she desires. “You can’t get too attached,” she says. “Pottery is a character-building activity.”

Palombo (lover of Cycladic and Mycenaean art, the Bauhaus movement, Jean Arp, and Isamu Noguchi) was born in Hamburg, Germany, and has lived and worked in Turkey, India, and a handful of cities across the United States before landing in Sarasota with her husband a decade ago. In many of these places—including here—she has taught aspiring artists the skills of her trade, always reminding them of the fragility of the work at hand. “Don’t fall in love with this beautiful thing because if you don’t drop it in the studio, you will probably drop it in the parking lot,” she likes to say. “And if it survives the ride home, your kid will drop it in the sink.” As she sees it, without risks—in the pottery studio or in life—the rewards aren’t as sweet: “You have to be a little bit reckless. That’s the fun of working with clay.”

The anthropomorphic results of Palombo’s recklessness can be found in private collections around the state, and for sale through the Soft Water Gallery in St. Petersburg, which represents her work. The artist’s forms run the gamut from bowls to vases to sculptures, and they reference everything from flowers to women’s bodies. At the time of our interview, she was focused on Head in the Clouds, an ongoing series inspired by clouds and how they connect us all through “the water, the beauty, and the data they hold.”

“My work is about seeing common subjects and themes and trying to understand them in fresh and deeper ways,” says Palombo. “We can only envision new things by synthesizing our experiences, observations, and insights. I am fascinated by the poetic and interconnected metaphors to be found in the mundane.”

Story Credits:

Text by Kelley Marcellus

Photos courtesy of Anja Palombo

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