A Viewer's Rorschach, with Len Carella : Ceramicist

Knots, dots, order and entropy

How is it possible that solid objects defy gravity, or suggest a touch as soft as skin or intricate as lace?   Leather and piercing, a Bay Area fashion statement or night on the town, is a recurrent vehicle for Len Carella’s vision and his illusion.  Twenty years in shoe and leather design belie the compelling interplay of soft leather against hard ceramic surfaces to produce very different results.   The Japanesque large lidded stoneware vessel strikes one as inviting and maternal.  The rounded shape conveys comfort and serenity.   The smooth bone-colored glaze is soft to the touch.  Leather straps envelop the vessel winding upward to merge into firm handles and are secured by an overlay of  paired ceramic disks whose very symmetry reinforces the sense of order.  Here, the leather forms the structural support.  


Leather and clay reverse roles in “Disk #3” and conjure a Native American Dream-catcher.  A large ceramic disk serves as the foundation to a delicate web of fine leather strands woven through a multi-pierced plate.  The concentric circular weave converges centrally to cascade like hair liberated from a bun.   


A friend and tile maker from Parson’s led Carella to explore tiles and discover a passion.  In what some individuals may interpret as wafers yearning to be free, “Porcelain Dots” misleadingly simple title masks the extraordinary process underlying the birth of the ambitious ten tile ensemble.  Weeks of drying followed by high firing like “a volcano melts rocks,” imperil each step. The blackened edges reflect not paint, but the carbon trapping of high firing, an unpredictable but highly prized result.  Thus, mere “dots” protruding and angling out from their wall mount convey the depth and movement of an epic struggle.

“Mobile #1” rebels against gravity and breaks free from the wall altogether.  Cap-less acorn bombs captured momentarily mid-air while in descent.  From afar, they are black silhouettes, noses angled down, casting long shadows.  Up close, light reflects off dimpled, pierced surfaces, or passes through to the wall projecting “stars” of light within the shadows possibly to allow the observer a glimpse of the heavens from which they fell.

For Carella, the plasticity of his medium marries the sculptural quality and detail of footwear to shapes and dimensionality of Nature.  He laments the disposable world we have come to inhabit and aspires Beauty to endure through clay and leather.

Photography courtesy of Themes + Projects displaying Len Carella’s work through September 30, 2017. 1275 Minnesota Street., San Francisco, CA 94107

Text by Hilary Perr, contributing writer for the LOCZIdesign group.