DxV: Erin McGuiness

By Regina Connell.

Porcelain lines Forms

Then there’s the work of sculptor/ceramist Erin McGuiness.

Erin, who works out of a studio in the Sawtooth Building in Berkeley, California’s Artisan District, creates graceful, substantial, and bold totemic sculptures that feel both Asian and African with a tribal modern feel. Utterly ancient and modern at the same time, they are graceful, powerful, have presence and are—in this sea of visual sameness—utterly memorable.

Open Forms

Now memorable isn’t always a good thing because “memorable” can also be limiting. But like other icons of modern design, these pieces are perfectly at home in any number of environments, from Dwell-minimalist boxes to wabi sabi Belgian-influenced interiors to more traditional homes looking to balance out ornateness with a sense of groundedness and being.

Black Mountin 503 507

The secret comes in the way her pieces manage to elevate the spaces around hers, and because of the evident work of her hand in each piece, creating nuance and infinite variation—even more apparent because she works only in dark and light clays.

Erin is a lifelong artist, which isn’t surprising given her provenance. Her grandmothers were musicians; her father started out as a professional photographer; and her mother was an art history major, continuing with fine arts post-college.

Porcelain lines Collection

She’s one of those lucky people who figured out at an early age what she wanted to do–and had the fortitude to stick with it. She started her exploration in high school in Northern Virginia, where she apprenticed with ceramic artists (and honed her eye during trips to local museums like the Smithsonian).  She then went to Earlham College in Indiana where she studied Fine Arts with a specialty in Ceramics.

From there, she moved onto an apprenticeship in Pittsburgh and then a move out to California. She first began working at a studio in Bolinas, then moved on to prestigious Ruby’s in San Francisco, before finally settling in Berkeley and setting up a gallery and studio.

She combines throwing and coiling techniques to make her ceramic forms. Coiling (an ancient Asian technique) is a particular love (and a reasonably rare ceramic technique) that works so well because it allows her to create her iconic shapes.


Her large-scale sculptures in particular are works of art, engineering and science: while clay is easy to work with in general, as it gets larger, it becomes more difficult to support, exhibiting a tendency to collapse.

Her work—which stands on its own just fine, but really begs to be seen in multiples—is available through her and to the trade via Holly Hunt, Ted Boerner, and San Francisco’s De Sousa Hughes.

First appeared on DxV.  


DxV: www.dxv.com

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