Feats of Clay

Posted online: February 2017

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By L.D. Porter Photographs Dewey Nicks

Sometimes, having exquisite taste means you can’t find exactly what you want. But if you’re lucky enough to have talent as well as taste, you can try to create what you want, and after that, if you’re lucky, people with taste may want what you’ve created. Exhibit A: Chris Brock.

Screen Shot 2017-02-01 at 3.55.05 PMBrock, a former private florist/estate gardener, and his husband, renowned interior designer Paul Fortune (he designed Marc Jacobs’s Paris apartment), could never find ceramic vessels massive enough to match their creative vision. The couple’s move from metropolitan Los Angeles to bucolic Ojai—home to legendary potter Beatrice Wood—propelled Brock out of retirement and into the studio of master local potter/instructor Larry Carnes. After a brief fling with the potter’s wheel (“I didn’t need things spinning out of control in front of me,” he says, “so I asked, ‘How else do you make a pot?’”), Brock adopted the ancient technique of clay coiling as his own; the rest, as they say, is history. 

Toiling away (usually to the strains of one of his beloved operas) in his mountaintop studio—a kitted-out colorful 1940s trailer Fortune installed on their property as a surprise—Brock produces glorious large-scale ceramic vessels that manage to appear ancient and modern at the same time. Bearing a sophisticated palette of glazes, the pieces are iconic and strong, a testament to Brock’s impeccable taste and knowledge of classical forms honed through years of experience in the design world and on museum-going travels with Fortune. 

Screen Shot 2017-02-01 at 4.13.06 PMThe trifecta of taste, technical acumen, and monumental scale embodied in Brock’s work has not gone unnoticed by design cognoscenti. His recent debut show of 33 pieces at the Rick Owens boutique in L.A. was a resounding success: Only two pieces remained, all the others having been snapped up by notable tastemakers, including Amy Astley, Joel Chen, Alix Goldsmith, Joel Silver, and Mario Testino. “Who knew the world was so hungry for a few fancy pots?” Brock quips modestly as he acknowledges the acquisitive desire his newly minted creations have inspired.Screen Shot 2017-02-01 at 4.13.19 PM

Brock is endearingly humble, crediting Fortune’s “impossible eye” and aesthetic sensibility as the impetus behind his burgeoning creative talent and well-deserved renown. “I want to cross that line from craft to art,” Brock says, in a tone that reveals he’s genuinely uncertain whether his current efforts qualify. “A pot is usable, and if it approaches art it’s a big win-win. If it crosses that line, it’s heaven.

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