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RAGNAR NAESS                            

In 1969 I began my pottery career in an old chicken coop behind my house in the small Western Massachusetts town of Colrain. I started by throwing for a year without firing and then returned to Guerneville, CA., to take a second of 3 summer study sessions with master potter Marguerite Wildenhain. At home I looked west across a branch of the Deerfield River, known in Colrain as the North River, which inspired my business name: North River Pottery. By 1973 I was starting again in Brooklyn and the name stuck with me.

From childhood till the present day I have loved architecture. My career plans in architecture were transformed during my college years once I discovered the values championed in the “small is beautiful” movement and became involved in the lives of potters John and Esther Sills in Woodside, California.

I realized making pottery and designing buildings required many of the same skills and interests, demanding integration of beauty and function. My university years at Stanford did not lead me to alternative career paths. Loving the Sills’ lifestyle and pottery inspired me to let my artistic impulse determine my career choice.  Pottery offered me a chance to seek beauty in a practical art which sidestepped what for me was an incomprehensible art era focused on abstract expressionism.  The Sills' advice led me to three intensive summer study sessions with Bauhaus potter Marguerite Wildenhain at her Pond Farm Pottery in Guerneville, California. Thus I built a foundation for my work based in the Western European pottery tradition. Though I imitated the Sills’ rural setting as I began my potting in rural New England, I soon moved to the urban inner city in Brooklyn where I continue making pots to this day.

My wish is to work with clay my entire life to see where I will go with it. I am doing more sculpture in the end of my fourth decade in my workshop. Playfulness is required in the sculpture work day, both in the dreaming and in the making. Sculpture also provides a new realm in which to explore color and texture. My work life alternates between periods of sculpture making and periods making practical pots. Mugs, bowls and teapots win the hearts of their users and add a personal touch of beauty to daily rituals. I continue to wish to connect with the world this way.

I invite you to learn about my current clay work on this website which allows me to share my sculpture as well as practical pots.

Over the years I have marketed my work through galleries, shops and craft fairs while pieces have found their way into private and museum collections here and abroad. I particularly enjoy commissions ranging in complexity from tableware as small as a customer’s favorite rice bowl to projects as vast as an 85 piece clay instrument ensemble created in collaboration with conductor / composer Tan Dun. Often customers' ideas or needs become inspiration for new work.

You are welcome here in Brooklyn where I keep a showroom filled with current work. Please call ahead for an appointment. One of my significant joys living as a studio craftsman is the opportunity to exchange ideas with many people over the years and to know firsthand their experience of my work in their lives. I hope this web site will give pleasure to persons unfamiliar with my work as well as old friends whose support and enthusiasm has nurtured my creative impulses and provided me with a livelihood. I look forward to visits with you in Brooklyn.