Top 10 Great Ceramic Artists

Ceramic art is one of the oldest art forms in human history. Stemming from the use of clay to create functional objects like bowls and jugs, ceramics expanded to provide communities with decorative pieces and, in the end, fine art.

Today ceramic art covers a wide range of styles from traditional pottery based objects to avant-garde creations that on first glance have nothing to do with clay. The masters of ceramics are true artists in every sense.

10. Victor Spinski (1940-2013)

Victor Spinski gained fame through the 1960’s and 70’s as ceramic art went through a period of great innovation and experimentation. Spinski was known for his replication of non-ceramic objects with his ceramic creations.

Tin buckets, tools, garbage, underwear and paint were favourite subjects and his ceramic pieces reproduced these objects with startling realism. The photo below is his ceramics, not a garbage tin full of stuff.

Technically great and willing to put a great amount of time into his work, Spinski created a genre of ceramic art that is as strong today as it was forty years ago.


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9. Ellen Schon (present)

Ellen Schon has been exhibiting her works since the late 1970’s and currently lectures at the Art Institute of Boston. Her work reflects a deep desire to use ceramic art as a metaphor for various aspects of the human experience and the world in which we live, blending traditional forms with ad hoc sculptures to create the statement.

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8. Carol Long (1965-present)

Carol Long has developed quite a unique style with her ceramic artworks, using the environment and animals around her farm in Kansas for inspiration. The pieces blend technique and colour to create wonderful, rolling forms that are simply a delight to behold.

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7. Abe Anjin (1938-present)

Abe Anjin is a somewhat reclusive Japanese artist who creates ‘Bizen ware’, a type of pottery in which the pieces are incredibly hard and typically contain a reddy-brown colour and perhaps traces of ash from the kiln process.

This is very traditional ceramic art. Abe’s pieces could be centuries old. Their form, balance and homage to the past make this absolutely classical work.

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6. Hara Kiyoshi (1936-present)

Hara Kiyoshi was named a Japanese National Living Treasure in 2005 and he continues to create beautiful pieces in his trademark black and brown tones, iron glazing and animal or plant motifs. The works invariably include fine details that are not always immediately obvious but which, on close examination, show what a brilliant technician and artist he is.

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5. Annie Woodford (present)

Annie Woodford has had a distinguished career to date, studying, traveling and exhibiting her ceramic artworks around the world.

Her creations could be microscopic creatures, primeval coral or war boats from ancient Greece. Stunningly beautiful and often delicate with intricate gossamer threads, these pieces demand attention.

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4. Peter Voulkos (1924-2002)

Peter Voulkos was a passionate, larger than life ceramic sculptor whose pieces demanded attention through their sheer scale and presence. Generally not subtle or concerned with fine detail, these works are widely sought after and shown in private and public art collections around the globe.

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3. Shiho Kanzaki (1942-present)

Shiho Kanzaki is a Japanese anagama (wood fired) potter from Shigaraki, a town famous for its ceramic pottery that is now part of Koka City, east of Kyoto. Ceramics were created here as far back as the 1500’s.

Shiho’s work shows the functional application of pottery, taking all aspects of the use of the finished product into account in the creation of the piece. Jars, bowls, urns and teapots have a rustic beauty where form meets function, highlighted by beautiful glazing.

These works continue an unbroken line of tradition culture that is as important globally as it is for the people of Shigaraki.

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2. John Glick (1938-present)

John Glick has worked from his private studio in Michigan since the 1960’s and his works take pride of place in many public and private art collections. His works invariably display a whirlpool of earthy colours that look both classic and contemporary at the same time. The form also mixes classical dimensions with some intriguing twists and sometimes a touch of the grotesque.
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1. Beate Kuhn (1927-present)

Undoubtedly one of the most important, and prolific ceramic artists of the last century, Beate Kuhn’s work is known and admired around the world. Since the 1950’s her works have explored shape and repetition to create a whole that is much larger than the sum of its parts. Avant-garde, but with a sense of tradition and earthiness that makes all her ceramic pieces unique.

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The creation of clay vessels (pottery) for storing food and water goes back into pre-history with artifacts from 7,000 BC found in Europe and 20,000 BC in China. The potters wheel is thought to have been created by the Mesopotamians in around 4,000 BC.

Ceramic artists today are using a medium whose evolution is closely interwoven with that of modern mankind itself.

Here’s a great video of Tokoname ceramic artist HOKUJO working his magic.

Top 10 Great Ceramic Artists

1. Beate Kuhn
2. John Glick
3. Shiho Kanzaki
4. Peter Voulkos
5. Annie Woodford
6. Hara Kiyoshi
7. Abe Anjin
8. Carol Long
9. Ellen Schon
10. Victor Spinski

Lyra Cam

Hi, I'm a marine biologist currently working in northern Queensland, Australia. I am fascinated by the amount of information we have access to and outside work I am addicted to researching unusual topics and summarizing my research in the form of lists.

14 Responses

  1. James Turell says:

    Are you on Crack?

  2. Leisha says:

    Just think Paul Soldner belongs on this list.

    • Listland Staff says:

      Yeah, he was in the running of course and difficult to leave off with such an incredible impact on the industry. And he’s gone now so maybe we need to find another way to celebrate his career.

  3. N Seitz says:

    Can anyone help me identify a ceramics sculptor whose signature reads.either D. Parecw or D. Lareau , D. Larecui or D. Parewu. It is a light rosy yellow clay female figure minimalist detail lovely graceful lines about 12 in tall. Thank you, Nancy

  4. zarahnitsa says:

    Its really amazing.I just like it all.

  5. Patent Attorney says:

    This really goes to show how many ceramic artists are making exciting stuff out there! Thanks for the brilliant list!

  6. Mo Dickens says:

    Very nice list. Some more artists who work with clay that you might enjoy are Jun Kaneko, Clare Twomey, Richard Notkin, Akio Takamori, and my wife, Cary Esser ( These folks have all had lengthy, successful careers. I imagine if we asked 100 people, they would come up with 100 different lists. I enjoyed looking over yours! – Mo Dickens, Gallery Assistant, Belger Arts Center, Kansas City, MO

  7. Donn Buchfinck says:

    You really have to be kidding. You have pretty much overlooked the explosive growth and breadth of ceramic art in the 20th century.
    Lets go with the women, Viola Fry, Betty Woodman, Ruth Duckworth, Toshiko Takaezu, Roseline Delisle, Marilyn Levine, Maria Martinez, Lucie Rie, Susanne Stephenson, Beatrice Wood and Ann Krause, and so many more, my memory is failing me at this time.

  8. Fran says:

    Hi, I’m studying History of art and my master thesis consist in hiperrealism sculptures of Pablo Rueda Lara?.He was born in Spain in 1945, but in 1969, he went to Rooterdam and lived there for 23 years. Someone met Pablo??His sculptures are similar of Marylin Levine or Victor Spinsky.
    I hope a reply. Thanks.

  9. Arenas says:

    Jerry Rothman is a ceramist who should be on any top ten ceramist list.

  10. robert reiber says:

    wayne Higby?

  11. KDC says:

    Some of the names sound vaguely familiar, but the list completely ignores the indigenous ceramics, ceramic figurative work, plus some of the most significant players in modern ceramics as well as the pivotal artists in history. .

    My list would be:
    Bernard Leach
    Shoji Hamada
    Lucie Rie
    Maria Mata Ortiz
    Paul Soldner
    Peter Voulkos
    Bob Arneson or his contemporaries in Funk
    Raku-san (head of the raku family…who ultimately led to at least two modern ceramic movements.)
    I can think of more, but one list won’t serve, and see above.

    I challenge you to come up with a Top 10 Ceramic sculptors. Top 10 Potters, Top 10 Ceramics figurative, and Top 10 Indigenous/Traditional……for a start. And a Top 10 pivotal artists in Ceramics.

  12. Michael S Pfaff says:

    You forgot Phillip Cornelius. He is the only prolific ceramic artist and teacher that is famous for his work with his thin ware.

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