Potted Pleasures

Patricia Carpenter unearths great international designs

“Just don’t call them vases,” laughs Patti Carpenter, president of Continuum Home, a New York-based design, manufacturing, import, and wholesale company. “Pots, or ceramics in general, bring an international feel into a home.” Pots—ceramic vessels and urns—are currently a big trend. Carpenter is a frequent traveler who, as a design and development consultant for the charitable organization Aid to Artisans, seeks out the wares of local craftspeople in developing countries such as Nicaragua and Madagascar.

Carpenter’s own line, The Phillips Collection, is in Donna Karan, Neiman Marcus, Bloomingdale’s, and J.C. Penney stores.

Hottest products: Anything overscaled; textured; bottle-shaped; or in natural, organic shapes and obviously hand-thrown, says Carpenter. “Glass is very important—from cut crystal to artist-blown with color and pattern—and everything in between.” Also, wood such as pine; mahogany; petrified with uneven edges; or pieced, recycled wood are big sellers, explains Carpenter.

What to choose: It depends on what you’re going to do with the pot, says Carpenter. “Bigger for standing on the floor, smaller for on a shelf. If [the pot is] to hold water, then you need one that has been high-fired—the higher the temperature of the kiln, the more sealed the clay. Wood pots should have a glass liner,” she says.

Where to shop: Furniture stores that carry complementary pieces are a great place to start. “[Also,] check small boutiques and museum shops for unique, one-of-a-kind pieces,” suggests Carpenter.

Best care: Most decorative pieces need only to be wiped with a dry cloth. Only put a piece of pottery in a dishwasher if the piece specifies, otherwise the water may break down the material.

International Finds

  • Porcelain: From China; a high-fired, superfine clay; sometimes mixed with quartz or metal; very fragile, but can hold water.
  • Chulucanas: From Peru; low-fired, porous, decorative; burnished in a smoky black/brown.
  • Raku: Traditional Japanese technique; metal- or glass-shot glaze creates an iridescent crackle effect.
  • Kpando: From Ghana; low-fired and black; painted with a very thin glaze that leaves a sheen; often decorated with raised dots and Adinkra symbols.
  • Terracotta: Porous, low-fired red clay; found all over the world.
ACROSS THE WEB