go play clay

handmade in LA by Allison Zimmer Guiliotis


I make functional pottery to infiltrate the subconscious considerations of everyday rituals with uniquely handmade objects. Living with and handling handmade pottery changes ones understanding of their ability to impact the environments we make and realigns our rituals in regard to eating, happiness and the incorporation of beauty in everyday life. My pots are meant to serve as reminders not only to mindfully consume but to also consider their own footprint as a maker.

My work is often hand carved and glazed using traditional recipes that rely on the atmospheric effects of reduction gas firing. Often I’ll encourage a heavy reduction phase to make a more metallic shino, a milky pale blue celadon or to make my white pots freckle with iron spots. These pots connect one to the intention to eat more healthfully by use of a special salad bowl, to host more dinner parties on handmade dinner sets or to just remember to take a moment to bring in a flower and stick it in a bud vase. I enjoy the idea of my pots as they live on as encouraging reminders to pursue ones goal of becoming a better cook, gardener or hosts but also ultimately to serve as handmade reminders to take better care of oneself.


I’m 41. After taking over spare bathrooms and porches to throw pots and rigging up outlandish temporary studios in various apartments in Palms, Encino, and Woodland Hills, California I finally convinced my city dwelling husband to move to the extreme Northeastern edge of Los Angeles County. Here I can have a garage and a some space to stretch out and make pots. Lancaster is admittedly a bit rough, but shows a lot of promise to artists priced out of affordable housing in the city of LA.

I got my start in clay back in 1992 at Dr. Phillips High school in Orlando, FL. Where my ceramics teacher, Mr. (Mike) Lalone brought in an incredible line up of visiting artists to give workshops in our classroom including Josh Deweese, Val Cushing, and Steven Hill. He taught us how to build and fire our own wood kiln and arranged to have the wood donated from the Wild West stunt show held daily across the street at Universal Studios. He also set me up in an after school job throwing pots for Bill Colby (aka Colby Clayworks) out at Disney Village where I heard enough jokes about Patrick Swayze and made enough carved votive candle holders to fill a house. For our senior year Mr. Lalone took us on a bus trip up to North Carolina to see Rock Creek Pottery (Will Ruggles and Douglass Rankin) and stay at Penland School of Crafts. After I graduated in 1996, I went back to Penland School as a work-study student scrubbing pots and pans and cleaning cabins to offset the expense of attending Mary Rohem's woodfire workshop. 

After high school I went on to get a Bachelors of Fine Art in Ceramics from the Kansas City Art Institute. I was supposed to graduate with the class of 2000 but I took extra sculpture and kiln building electives and loaded up on more Art History classes than needed so I didn't officially graduate until 2001. I loved working with George Timock and Victor Babu. Ken Ferguson officially retired the year I arrived at KCAI but he was still on-hand for regular lectures/critiques and home visits where he'd show us his collection and studio so long as we stayed silent during Jeopardy. I was also one of several studio assistants to the (then) new department chair, Cary Esser. Although I was awarded several grants and scholarships for living expenses but I still needed to hustle as a work-study student taking jobs ranging from cleaning the glaze room, working in the computer graphics lab, assisting in the financial aid office, and living as a residential housing advisor. I took every job I could find, including hanging insulation in my professor's studio, working in galleries and helping other students with their projects in order to stay afloat. I mention this because my continued hardship drove me to scrape for abilities and reinvent myself so that I could ensure some sort of art related employment.

After my time at the Art Institute I made a very expensive decision to enroll in the graduate program for Art History at the University of Missouri in Kansas City. I cringe now with embarrassment that I had to redo all of their undergraduate Art History courses despite having surpassed the prerequisites while at KCAI. At UMKC I was admitted without a scholarship or any assistance and was entirely dependent on loans. I spent several years there, making another rookie mistake by falling for the part time contemporary art professors (Dr. Randall Griffey and Dr. Leesa Fanning) and not forming a solid relationship with the full time faculty that I would later need to sit on my thesis committee. I left the program after the realization that I was in the wrong place, but not before wracking up an insurmountable amount of student loan debt.

But I did have many bright spots during graduate school. I worked as researcher and writer for educational programming guides at ExhibitsUSA, as a gallery director at Red Star Studios Ceramic Center (now also known as the Belger Crane Yard Studios) and at the Byron C. Cohen Gallery as an assistant gallery director. I reviewed some shows while employed as a freelance critic at the late Review Magazine. I was also invited to write at the Archie Bray Foundation, as a Jentel Critic, in 2005. 

After relocating to Los Angeles in 2005 I worked for the Frank Lloyd Gallery for a bit and then for a while as a consultant for Craft In America. I did research and other tasks pertaining to their book, exhibition and documentary. I’ve taken other less interesting jobs since then to pay the bills ... but eventually found my way back to teaching some classes at Berman Ceramic Arts in North Hollywood, various art and ceramic classes for homeschool kids at Huckleberry Center for Creative Learning and later with Learning Beyond the Book.

Now that I've got my home studio up and running I'm on a break from in-person teaching. I've had a lot of fun selling pots in various pop up markets in Southern California. It began with Artists&Fleas events in downtown LA and Venice, the Queen Bee Market in Del Mar/San Diego and the Brentwood Art Festival in West LA. I’ve since found a couple shows that I really like returning to in the Spring and Fall including: Renegade Craft Fair in downtown LA and also at Jackalope Art Fair in Pasadena. While it is hard work to set up and breakdown a full pottery display, it is really important for me to see how people respond to my pots. I have sold a bit on line through my Etsy store but it just doesn't compare to the feedback and satisfaction that I get from just watching people pick up my pots and respond to the forms in person.

My plan this year is to stay with markets that are within a few hours of LA. But if things keep going well I'd love an excuse to travel more. I'm so happy to have a larger sense of community not only with other makers but with all the interesting people I encounter at these local handmade markets occurring in California.