Ceramicist Warner Walcott
July 28, 2020
Text by Erika Ayn Finch
Warner Walcott’s vessels, bowls, platters, and lamps are the ceramic equivalent of the little black dress: sophisticated, essential, and timeless. Walcott, who creates under the moniker Magnolia Ceramics as a nod to his Mississippi roots, was creative from an early age, but it took him a while to make a career of art. He started out as a premed student at Nashville’s Vanderbilt University before detouring into event production in the fields of fashion and publishing. In 2008, after ten years representing photographers through his own Los Angeles-based agency, Walcott had an epiphany: “I had spent years helping others realize their creative dreams,” he recalls. “If I didn’t take care of my own creative needs, that ship was going to sail.”
Magnolia Ceramics was born in L.A., but two years ago Walcott relocated to Connecticut. These days, he travels between two studios, one in the artsy SoCal town of Ojai, just north of L.A., and the other in Bethel, Connecticut. The self-taught craftsman (he’s a big believer in author Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000-hour rule) admits he could have embraced a different art form; he took classes in both drawing and painting at Vanderbilt, and only briefly dabbled in ceramics. “But [in 2008], ceramics was what I needed. I know it sounds dramatic,” he concedes, “but ceramics was life-changing. It was therapeutic and brought me clarity. I felt really good for the first time in a long time.”
Walcott’s work hints at Danish, English, and Japanese design. Each piece is simple and unadorned with clean, strong lines and a palette heavy on soft neutrals and vibrant blues and greens. The craftsman, who will quickly tell you that he doesn’t take a fine-art approach, describes his ceramics as the result of a cumulation of life experiences. Pieces reflect cities inhabited, places traveled, careers explored, and people loved. First and foremost, Walcott wants his work to exude timelessness and the avoidance of trends at all cost. And he says there’s nothing more flattering than when someone chooses to make Magnolia Ceramics part of their daily life.
“It blows me away when someone gets in touch with me and says one of my lamps is the first thing they see every morning,” Walcott says. “It makes me realize that these objects can bring joy to people, and that means a lot.”
Editor’s note: Warner Walcott is represented by Plain Goods, plain-goods.com. To see more of his work, visit magnoliaceramics.com.