To walk into Giana Grossman’s studio at the Carbondale Clay Center is to enter a realm of sea and land, warmth and spirit, pop and verve. Between form, texture, and color, a display of Grossman’s vessels is irresistible to the eye and hand. You can’t help but to pick one up, finding pleasure in their lightness and form; or to run your fingers over rising and falling stains and glazes. You can’t help but want one.
Grossman’s work has made a name for itself at the farmers market and Bonfire Coffee, where demand keeps the selection in continuous flux. Her shapes are clean and contemporary. She removes all traces of fingerwork, letting style and personality come through in her color choices, compositions and patterns.
In her studio, late morning sun spills through a high window. Two additional lights shine on her wares and across her potter’s wheel, its rhythmic whir at play with background tunes. Grossman dips into one of three buckets around her wheel, two shades of ocean blue and one of desert green.
“I’ve wanted to be a potter since I was a child. There was an electric wheel in our basement,” she remembers, “it was like a toy wheel. I’d go down to the bay — I grew up really close to the water — and dig up clay and try to make things. I’ve always had my hands in the earth.”
Grossman’s first degree was in advertising design, “and then the whole industry turned to computers. I don’t want to work on a computer,” she chuckles. “I’m more of a hands-on, ‘manual labor’ type. So I went to art school and studied printmaking,” in addition to her ongoing pottery studies, which have resulted in a well-loved line of homewares here in the valley.
“I started teaching classes here that no one else was teaching, which were with Ascendigo and adults with developmental disabilities.”
Grossman’s hands move up the face of a vase, applying and removing stain. Interning with a disabled woman during college, she had discovered as much reward for herself as she did for her disbaled students.
Grossman carefully glazes a bowl in her studio at the Carbondale Clay Center. Photo by Olivia Emmer
“It’s great muscle and motor skill exercise, brain-to-hand. It’s a disconnect for a lot of special needs students. And working the material and creating something? A lot of special needs humans haven’t been expected to carry something to completion. That’s important — from start to finish — being accountable, just like anyone else in the world.”
In addition to pottery, Grossman has raised her son, loves to garden, cook, and take care of her home. “I have always been involved with domesticity, and cooking,” she says, her words steeped in sensuality.
Having grown up in the Hamptons, she designed large container gardens for her garden design clientele. Here, she has a large wrap-around deck, “but it’s like the Mongolian steppes; super windy and dry. I can grow cacti, peppers!” Four plots at a community garden have supplied her with easier, satisfying root crops — carrots, beets. Canning produce inspired her to throw her own funnels, which today, are objets d’art on her studio walls. They exude playfulness, style and an appreciation for beauty in the ordinary. Various other series fill the shelves of her studio: cups, bowls, plates, saucers, vases.
“For me, the cup is a really important form — it is to most potters: the culmination of all your experience. We all drink. That vessel helps me connect with a lot of people.” As such, Grossman strives to create a variety of forms in a spectrum of hues that “can touch a broad range of people,” she says. “My favorite is when kids come in. They want to touch every single one.”
The objects Grossman creates, especially cups, she finds sacred.
“All the work that goes into the beverage, for that coffee to finalize in my cup, be realized in my cup — that’s pretty intense. Where all those coffee beans came from, where that tea was harvested. It’s inspiring to me,” Grossman sighs. “I’m a very ‘feeling’ individual. I like to be connected to my human side. I like to get dirty. I don’t mind working hard. I like communicating with people. I like to get involved. I like to put happiness into my work.”
One of Grossman’s clients, a gifted artist and known empath who tends to hold the weight of an unsettled world in her heart, has acquired a significant collection. “When she gets a new piece, I can see her really happy. Truly happy, and feeling really resolved and fulfilled. That’s a great feeling for me.”
Peruse Grossman’s alluring wares at Bonfire Coffee, the Redstone General Store, the Annual Fire House Holiday sale (Nov. 20, 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.) and the RVR Barn pop-up (on Dec. 5, from 1 to 4 p.m.).
“I’ve wanted to be a potter since I was a child,” remembers Grossman. Photo by Olivia Emmer