A Natural Touch

A Natural Touch: Heather Knight imbues her delicate porcelain creations with textures inspired by elements of land and sea
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A 2006 graduate of the University of North Carolina Asheville, Knight spent her college years exploring clay’s diverse artistic characteristics.

“I did some super-involved surfaces in school: colors, layers, processes,” she says. “I got really tired of it and switched gears. Now I’m using texture as my finish.”

Although she makes a range of functional objects, including bowls and small dishes that are glazed on the inside, according to Knight, the tiles are an “exploration in texture.” And the inspiration is always from nature—coral, seashells, sea urchin spines, seed pods, flower blossoms, and other specimens she finds on walks and then keeps sometimes for years, allowing their patterns to marinate in her mind.

Beginning with slab-formed clay, Knight applies hundreds of individually shaped pieces to create the surface, which mimics the motion of wind or waves. Knight works exclusively in porcelain, the most difficult clay to sculpt because of its extremely fine molecular structure. “It has this unbelievable texture and response that other clays don’t have,” she explains. “When you fire it, it’s that pure, pure white with a little bit of sheen. It’s just gorgeous.”

Her porcelain work gave rise to Element Clay Studio in 2007, and the business has grown steadily. In March, Knight moved the company to a spacious, light-filled work space at the Wedge Building in Asheville’s River Arts District. Now there’s room for an elegant showroom, plus enough drying racks, work tables, and equipment to keep a hundred pieces in the production pipeline at once.
Beyond Asheville’s art and handcraft scene, Element Clay Studio has hit the big time, thanks to a strong Internet presence. Her work is sought out by collectors and interior designers from Los Angeles to New York to Texas and as far away as Dubai and Saudi Arabia. But we’re proud to claim her as our own. Nothing beats being able to walk into the studio, see the process, and meet the artist herself.

Element Clay Studio
123-B Roberts St., Asheville
(828) 275-8279
Tuesday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-5 p.m.