Warner Walcott didn’t want to wake up one day and wonder about the road less traveled. So after a career in fashion in New York and running his own photo agency in Los Angeles, he stepped back and got his hands dirty. “I had been doing ceramics recreationally for about three years and really enjoying it. I realized that this was what I really wanted to do. So I did.”
Walcott — who had a mentor in Joe Soldate, a noted figure in California’s ceramic arts movement of the 1960s — closed his agency and opened Magnolia Ceramics. Two years ago, the L.A.-based potter went bi-coastal, settling into an old farmhouse in Ridgefield and a studio in Bethel and offering his work through Plain Goods in New Preston. Bouncing back and forth between Connecticut and California, Walcott has truly found his niche. “Before, I was taking care of other people’s creative needs, not my own,” he says. “And I didn’t want to end up an old man full of regret. With ceramics, I have a lot more agency in terms of my time. I have a better quality of life.”
Launching his new venture, Walcott was determined to achieve an equilibrium between the creative and the corporate, to be successful on his own terms. “When I started doing this, I quickly realized that I did not want to be a production potter making hundreds of coffee mugs. You need a stable of potters to produce at that level, and I just didn’t want to do that, I didn’t want to make the mistake of becoming a creative director for other people. I wanted to be more hands-on.”
Drawn to post-war Scandinavian ceramics, among others, Walcott strives in his own work to produce clean-lined, solid pieces that will stand the test of time. Striking a balance between functionality and the decorative, he has created bowls that beg to be cradled in two hands, tabletop pedestals that project a vaguely Asian aspect, and thin-necked vases that echo the profile of a chemist’s Erlenmeyer flasks. “I want my work to have an heirloom quality,” he says. “When I am working on a piece, I always ask myself, ‘Will someone still want this in 20 years?’ ”
Working in Connecticut has only deepened that resolve. “L.A. is very flashy, but here, people just want to cut some lilacs and put them in a vase with a big open neck. I have a piece that I refer to as a barrel vase. Before coming to Connecticut, I would have found that a boring form, but I discovered here how much people love just a beautiful, handmade, basic piece of ceramic. Connecticut taught me that. It taught me that that’s OK, I don’t have to show off.”
Warner Walcott is represented by Plain Goods (plain-goods.com). To see more of Walcott’s work, go to magnoliaceramics.com.