Clara Holt Reimagines Ancient Myths and Decorative Traditions in Vivid Ceramic Vessels

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Terracotta Blues’ series wheel thrown by Chiara Zoppei. All images © Clara Holt, shared with permission

Drawing on the long history of Mediterranean ceramics, Italian artist Clara Holt covers the surfaces of vessels, tiles, and tablets with playful, colorful narratives. Inspired by the region’s ancient decorative pottery like the Minoan octopus flask or Greek and Etruscan vase painting, she illustrates references to mythology, nature, customs, and folklore.

As a child, Holt’s grandparents told stories of Greek heroes and monsters, and she devoured books about the ancient gods and legends. “Mythology fascinated me because it was like a bridge that could connect our present with a dimension far away in time—a time so far away that it could only be told with a dose of fantastic storytelling,” she says. As she grew older, her interests expanded to Nordic lore and the Old Norse sagas. Today, she borrows imagery and motifs from the timeless tales, recontextualizing them into mysterious narratives.

Employing a traditional Italian pottery decoration technique called sgraffitomeaning “scratched,” Holt carefully incises shallow cuts out of the smooth surface of a glazed pot, revealing the outlines of figures, animals, plants, and landscapes. In her series Terracotta Blues, the characters exist within an undefined story that circle around tall earthenware vases, creating “dreamlike scenes and imaginary characters that leave room for interpretation.”

In addition to pots and vases, Holt makes two-dimensional ceramic tiles and panels, and she is currently preparing a new series for an exhibition in Iceland in June. Find more work on her website where she also has pieces available her in her shop, and follow updates on Instagram.


Slip casted by Jacopo Lupi


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