Birds embellish ceramic platters

Erica Rae Sanchez
Social Media Editor

The room was filled with off-white, differently sized plates with birds of various colors flying across their surfaces at the American Museum of Ceramic Art for the “Avian Clay: Kent Tool and Dana Gardner” exhibit.

The exhibit brought two artists of different mediums together to create a bird infused art exhibit. 

Paul Roach, director of advancement of communications, has a role behind the scenes.

“It is quite a striking example of artistic collaboration between a prominent illustrator and an accomplished ceramist,” Roach said. “It is a very rare example, I’m not aware of many other successful artistic collaborations of this nature.”

Tool and Gardner met each other at an art exhibit in San Francisco, and from there they developed a friendship as they discovered they both share a similar interest in birds and bird-watching. 

“Dana and I both found out coincidentally that we both loved bird watching in Costa Rica,” Tool said. 

“We had this same common birding interest and the same background in the same country and we didn’t know each other at all,” he added. 

After meeting 10 years ago, they have collaborated on three different shows throughout their friendship.

“We create what we create just for that specific show we are going to have,” Tool said. “The kind of ceramics that I do are a little different than the ones that are done for the show.”

Each artist caters toward one another and their medium.

“Many of our attendees were struck by the artistic accomplishments of the pair in creating incredibly life like illustrations on ceramic material,” said Roach.

Nathan Stanfield, exhibitions manager, was in charge of curating the show. He described the process as all hands were on deck when it came time to create the aesthetic design of the show.

First, Stanfield began by choosing a space for the art, which he then creates a digital layout for to really determine how the space for the art will eventually look, he said. 

Once he chooses a thematic color scheme for the space, he then creates what is shown on the title wall and is finally able to make the show a reality. 

Stanfield hung 30 of the 60 pieces he had received from the artists around the space as he grouped them based off of size, rather than through chronology or aesthetic.

“The color of the show was a Thanksgiving red,” Stanfield said.

He chose this color because of a featured piece that portrayed a cornucopia, red husks and fall colors, he explained. 

What he described as unique about the show was the fact that the artwork available for purchase. He described this as a huge factor in curating a show because this meant the design of the show had to place a focus on the replacement of a piece that was sold, Stanfield explained.

Roach and Stanfield shared similar opinions about a platter that was oval shaped, with the lining covered in cacti and a roadrunner dead center in mid stride.

“You can see why Dana chose that form created by Kent Tool to illustrate a roadrunner because there is really energy to bot the illustration and the form. They seem beautifully matched,” Roach said. 

This collaboration was more about celebrating friendship than it was about anything else, Stanfield said. 

The exhibit runs through Dec. 30. 

Erica Rae Sanchez can be reached at

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