More than sewing, flower-arranging or zine-making, clay might offer the perfect antidote to modern times. Hyper-tactile, it taps into a primal desire to shape earth — what the potter and writer Edmund de Waal has described as thinking through the hands — and is beloved for its immediacy. “You move and the clay moves with you,” says Aneta Regel, who was a finalist for this year’s Loewe Craft Prize and who, 12 years after graduating from London’s Royal College of Arts, now finds her works — lumpy, funky, cooked until cracked — aligned with a prevailing taste for artfully imperfect handwork, more generally, and for ceramics, in particular. If it is unsurprising to find mounting evidence of the trend on Instagram and at lifestyle-leaning boutiques like Samuji in New York and CristaSeya in Paris, it is notable that clay’s proliferation has, over the past decade, extended to the fine art world, which has long been wary of the material, widely considered to be lowly, functional and inexpensive. One of de Waal’s early teachers liked to say that his pots “had to be cheap enough to drop,” a condition that recalls the train tracks around Kolkata, India, strewn with shards of terracotta as a result of riders’ tossing their empty cups of chai out the window.

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