Maryland’s Shirley Gromen says her porcelain work is a portal into the ever-changing natural world of the Chesapeake Bay.
Artist: Gromen grew up in Maryland. She earned her BFA from MICA (Maryland Institute College of Art) and her MFA in ceramics from The Ohio State University. She worked many years as a graphic designer before returning to the clay studio.
Company/studio: Shirley Gromen Ceramics is based in Ridge, MD, on the shore of the Chesapeake Bay.
Art & materials: Functional and sculptural porcelain forms, including envelope-shaped vases, bowls, platters. The artist uses sgraffito to interpret different species of birds, fish, insects and plants.
Why clay: “From the day I first walked into the ceramic studio, as an undergraduate student at MICA, clay has captivated me with the numerous possibilities of combining the 3-dimensional form with 2-dimensional imagery.”
What’s popular: Small bowls with a Striped bass breaking the rim ($175).
Other favorites: Medium-size vases with an image of Kingfishers ($420).
Process: Over the years, she has utilized various underglaze, incising and china-painting techniques. Gromen’s current work relies heavily on sgraffito.
What is sgraffito: A ceramic decorating method where color is applied to a leather hard surface then areas are scratched/carved off to reveal the contrasting color underneath. After a bisque firing, each piece is finished with a liner glaze and fired to 2,200 °F
Favorite tools: Exacto knife and a pencil.
- The hours spent on the Chesapeake Bay first with her father and now with her husband fishing and bird-watching.
- Her grandmother’s Limoges china that she carried from Europe in 1914.
- Her mother’s Imari china plates from Japan that she collected and then used to decorate the walls of our dining room.
- Her career as a graphic designer when she envisions the two-dimensional aspect of a surface design or pattern with all its intricate layers and stages.
Special or unusual commissions: A tiled shower of a school of alewives.
What’s next: Several exhibitions, including:
- Scope Gallery, a ceramic co-op gallery, Alexandria, VA. Through December.
- 13th Annual Workhouse Clay International, Lorton, VA. 5-Oct. 22.
- Cup: The Intimate Object XIX, Charlie Cummings Gallery (online gallery), Gainesville, FL. Oct. 6-Nov. 2.
- 47th Annual Philadelphia Museum of Art Craft Show. Nov. 3-5.
Where to buy: