ISSUE 2  |  Kitchen Secrets

Cult Following: Photographer Jim Franco’s Ceramic Bowls

January 15, 2015 2:00 PM

BY Margot Guralnick

In between shoots far and wide, New York lifestyle photographer Jim Franco became obsessed with making hand-thrown pottery. After three evening classes at Tribeca Potters, he turned to YouTube videos for further instruction and rented a studio at City Potters. His perfectly formed pastel bowls now sell out as soon as they’re available. And Jim finds himself with a dual creative career.

In fact, Jim has long been at ease wearing many hats. He and I were colleagues years back when he was the photography editor at Travel + Leisure magazine. Jim and his partner, Joe Maer, now run a busy photo prop house and have an online boutique under construction. To find time for pottery, he often works from 5:30 a.m. to 9 a.m., which perhaps explains his quietly magical results.

Photography by Gentl & Hyers for Dara Artisans.

Above: All of Jim’s work is made of porcelain, and his speciality is the small, functional–and photogenic–bowl: “I like the challenge of making a bowl that looks and feels comfortable. Japanese ceramic artists seem to somehow imbue simple forms with power. It’s an approach I’ve always admired.” Shown here, a collection in a variety of glazes, including matte cream with blush accents and matte shamo glaze with dark brown brushwork.

Above: “Working on the wheel demands undivided attention,” says Jim. “As soon as I touch the clay, I have to shut out all other thoughts and just concentrate on forming a shape. It would be interesting to do a study of ceramic artists to see if their blood pressure falls as they throw. I bet it does.”

Above: Jim sells his bowls by request and through several shops, including online global emporium Dara Artisans, which sold out its most recent collection overnight. Watch for the next batch at Dara Artisans in early February. Ochre in Soho has also just begun offering Jim’s work. Prices range from $55 to $150, depending on size.

Above: A collection of bisque bowls.

Above L: Jim’s hands covered with slip. Above R: Two pieces of porcelain clay waiting to be wedged.

Above: Stacking bowls in emerald glaze, including one with a spout.

Above: Matte glazes in shades of sky blue and emerald.

Above: Tools of the trade. Interested in learning yourself? Jim recommends the YouTube videos by master potter Hsin-Chuen Lin of Fremont, California: “He has excellent technique and a clear teaching manner.”

Above: To see more, including Jim’s own photographs of his work, go to Jim Franco Ceramics. And for alerts about new bowls and where to purchase them, follow Jim on Instagram at @jimgl

We’re in the midst of a Handmade Ceramics renaissance. Take a look at: