How Terrafirma Ceramics Became a New York City Icon

If you are looking for a way to add some color, texture, and style to your table and home, take one look and you will know that Terrafirma ceramics are works of art that belong in your collection. These beautiful dinnerware pieces have been crafted by artist Ellen Evans in New York City since 1980, using natural stoneware and porcelain clay. They feature unique hand-painted patterns that create a distinctive "one of a kind" result. Whether you prefer a simple or a complex design, a solid or a speckled color, you can find the perfect Terrafirma ceramic for your taste.

But how did this small pottery studio become one of the most popular and respected brands in the American art pottery scene? How did Ellen Evans develop her own way of producing handmade functional works of art that enrich the presentation of food and make an elegant statement? In this blog post, we will explore the history and evolution of Terrafirma ceramics, from its humble beginnings to its current success.


The Beginning: A Passion for Pottery

Ellen Evans was born in 1943 in New York City. She grew up surrounded by art and culture, visiting museums, galleries, theaters, and concerts. She also developed an early interest in pottery, inspired by her grandmother who taught her how to make clay pots when she was young. Ellen loved playing with clay, shaping it into different forms and colors. She also enjoyed painting on it with acrylics or watercolors.

Ellen attended The School of Visual Arts (SVA) in New York City, where she studied ceramics under renowned artist Paul Soldner. She learned about various techniques such as hand-building, wheel-throwing, glazing, firing, and decorating. She also developed her own style of pottery that combined simplicity with complexity, realism with abstraction, and harmony with contrast.

After graduating from SVA in 1965, Ellen worked as an illustrator for magazines such as Vogue and Harper's Bazaar. She also exhibited her paintings at various galleries around the city. However, she never gave up on her passion for pottery. She continued to work with clay in her spare time at home or at local community centers where she taught classes for children and adults.

The Breakthrough: A New Process

In 1980, Ellen decided to start her own pottery studio in New York City. She rented a small space above a restaurant on West 14th Street near Union Square Park. She named it Terrafirma Ceramics after the Latin word for "solid ground" or "firm foundation". She wanted to create pottery that was strong enough to withstand daily use but also beautiful enough to last for generations.

Ellen's new process involved using natural stoneware and porcelain clay that she bought from local suppliers. She mixed them to create different shades of color depending on the ratio of white to clay content. She then shaped each piece by hand using simple tools such as knives or spoons. Pouring several layers of porcelain on top of each piece to create a clean white background that contrasts with the colorful patterns.

Ellen's patterns were inspired by nature but also by abstract shapes and forms that she saw around her. She used various techniques such as stamping, carving, scratching, or painting to create intricate designs that added depth and dimension to each piece. Some of her patterns were geometric while others were organic; some were symmetrical while others were asymmetrical; some were monochromatic while others were multicolored.

Ellen's pieces were not only beautiful but also functional. They are all designed to be food-safe, dishwasher-safe, microwave-safe, oven-safe and freezer-safe. Making them convenient for warming and freezing food without damaging or discoloring the surface and makes for an easy clean up.

Ellen's pieces have personality and character that reflect their individuality as well as their creator's vision. Each piece had slight variations in color due to kiln-firing at high temperatures. These subtle variations in texture are due to hand-building techniques and each piece has unique variations in surface due to glazing methods. Making each piece truly a one-of-a-kind of a kind.

The Growth: A National Brand

Ellen's studio soon became popular among local customers who appreciated her quality craftsmanship and artistic flair. However, she soon realized that there was more demand than supply for her products, especially in other parts of the country. She decided to expand her business and sell her products online through specialty retailers like

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