Ceramic Fantastic: The Victorian Vision Of Laura Zindel

Laura Zindel’s surreal ceramic creations combine high-quality home dishware with faux historical hand-drawn imagery inspired by Victorian Cabinets of Curiosity. Bugs, snakes and spiders on my dinner plate… Please sir, may I have some more?

(images via: Ceramic Arts Daily and Notes on a Party)
Who is Laura Zindel and why is she intent on bugging our meals? To address the first question, Laura Zindel-Lauterbach and her husband Thorsten Zindel Lauterbach are the two artists behind Laura Zindel Ceramics, located (as are they) in an old farmhouse in southern Vermont.

(images via: Blackbird)
Laura Zindel learned the tricks of her trade not by puttering around in her basement, but by becoming an accredited potter with the letters to prove it – a BFA in Ceramics from the Rhode Island School of Design and an MFA in Ceramics from the University of Massachusetts.

(images via: Big Daddy Seashell)
Zindel’s natural talent for drawing is something that cannot be taught, merely refined. All of the meticulously detailed images on her ceramics are hand-drawn in pencil, then printed with enamel to become ceramic transfers which are subsequently collaged onto the raw pieces and fired for permanence in a process known as transferware. First adopted in the 18th century, transferware embodying such complex and delicate artwork is not commonly practiced these days.

(images via: Bioephemera, The Vintage Chair, Newshopper and Core77)
When asked about her inspirations, Zindel mentions the Victorian Cabinets of Curiosity, which were intensely personal collections of natural oddities and objects of beauty accumulated by the wealthier members of British society. What Zindel refers to as “The art of collecting and displaying ones’ passions” originated before Queen Victoria’s accession to the throne in 1837 – perhaps even before the establishment of the British Museum in 1753, which popularized collecting as a reputable hobby.

(images via: LauraZindel.com)
Officially Victorian or not, Zindel’s work evokes a sense of great age, scientific craftsmanship and quality worthy of an heirloom. The latter is perhaps the most appropriate. As Laura Zindel’s artist statement expostulates, “I believe that some objects can carry a personal history through a family from year to year. I hope that I can make art that a family member can buy to be handed down the line. Something bought on a whim, that becomes the platter for the turkey, or sits on the mantel. ‘Crazy old Uncle Larry bought that peculiar spider platter, and we just can’t seem to part with it’, I would like to be a part of that.”

(images via: John Coulthart and This Next)
Are Zindel’s pieces destined solely for the mantelpiece, there to collect dust and scare your kids (and their kids)? Definitely not – each piece displays a non-toxic, low fire glazed surface and are slip cast with low fire white earthenware. Food safe they are; appetite safe… well, that depends how hungry you are.

(images via: Apartment Therapy, Hello Blackbird and My Opinions Are Important)
Zindel’s frighteningly beautiful ceramic wares can’t be found on the shelves of your local Wal-Mart or Piggly Wiggly. As handmade fine art creations they are not exactly numerous, though over the years the Zindels have crafted a wide variety of sizes, styles and designs. Visit the Laura Zindel Ceramics website for a list of galleries – the Exploding Head Gallery in Sacramento, CA for example. Certain specialty online stores like Blackbird also carry Laura Zindel pieces – search and ye shall find.

(images via: Not Wild Style and LauraZindel.com)
The current list of designs features beetles, birds, bees, dragonflies, moths, spiders and snakes, just to name a few. Light Blue, Pine Green and the intriguingly named “Iron Buffalo” are usually used as edge trimming or for the interiors of mugs and tumblers.

(images via: LauraZindel.com, A Farm Fresh Wedding and Kaboodle)
At present there are over 30 different types of ceramic dishware available featuring Zindel’s naturalistic motifs, ranging from small dessert plates to huge round serving platters a full 17 inches in diameter. Pricing varies generally with the size of the item but small pieces need not be budget breakers: an Espresso Cup and Saucer combo goes for just $26.00, for example.

(images via: Apartment Therapy and Wooden Stone Gallery)
Even stores that do not normally specialize in ceramics have noted the unique ability of Laura Zindel’s ceramics to attract, repulse, and intrigue. The above displays were assembled by the Scarlet Sage Herb Co. in Valencia, CA, and show off some of Zindel’s more unusual (if that can be said) designs. Among the many marine creatures depicted above in Zindel’s ancient zoological style are seashells, starfish, sand dollars, seahorses and jellyfish. I seafood… and I like it!

Laura Zindel’s startling ceramics effectively bridge the gap between historic sensibilities and modern practicality, with a dash of “shock & awe” thrown in for good measure. It’s a recipe for success at the dinner table, though if your guests aren’t quick to chow down you’ll have something else to blame besides your cooking.