Ceramic artist Maren Kloppmann evolves to weather the recession. Ceramic artist Maren Kloppmann is spinning away in her fourth-floor studio at the Northrup King building in Minneapolis. As sun streams in the windows, her foot methodically pumps the pedal of her English treadle wheel. “We’re talking primitive,” she says of the wheel, which she uses to form tableware and sculptural vessels from porcelain. The process requires great skill, but it’s one that keeps her intimately connected to every piece she produces, right down to the refined edge of a plate. It’s also part of what makes her work so distinctive that she won a commission to create an installation for the reception area of the new Westin Edina Galleria. “It has 31 pieces that are the same size and shape, and the key is that they’re very simplistic,” she says of the hotel’s striking arrangement of delicate wall plates.
Born and raised in Germany, Kloppmann, who is married to The Current host Mark Wheat, came to the United States 25 years ago to work on a Master of Fine Arts degree at the University of Minnesota. Modernism and minimalism have long influenced her distinctive style, leading to a career in functional pottery, namely tableware, that she sells out of her studio and through galleries. By happenstance, the Westin commission coincided with the economic downturn and a drop in sales of her smaller, consumer-friendly wares. “We’re all in one way or another affected by the recession, and people have changed in terms of the way they spend money,” Kloppmann says.
Another change over the last five or so years, she notes, is to the perception of ceramics. “Ceramics as a medium has crossed the boundaries into fine art,” she says, pointing to high-profile exhibits such as Dirt on Delight: Impulses That Form Clay, now at the Walker, and the increased representation of ceramic artists at fine art galleries. In Minneapolis, Kloppmann is represented by Circa Gallery and Weinstein Gallery. She’s also started expanding her craft to include more commissions, though she vows to continue creating smaller-scale works. Shoppers can spy her tableware creations, most of which cost $50–$250, during Northrup King’s First Thursdays events (5–9 pm, the first Thursday of every month) and the building’s annual Art Attack (Nov. 6–8).