Photography by Melissa Valladares

Claysayer

by Alison Gee | magazine | July 9, 2012

New Jersey native Robert Siegel has to laugh whenever a new acquaintance asks him the classic Los Angeles question: Did you move here for a Hollywood career? “I have to tell them, ‘No, I’m not an actor. I’m a potter,’” he says. The assumption that he’s taking classes with Wayne Dvorak is understandable—at first glance, he recalls a young Stallone. But there’s a lot of subtext roiling beneath the good looks, just as with his ceramic work.

Robert Siegel Handmade mostly features great-looking tableware—the kind of gorgeous, everyday pieces that you’d give your Neutra-obsessed best friend for her wedding. “My work has the clean lines of midcentury pieces,” says the 29-year-old, who finds appreciative collectors among the city’s creative core: architects, designer and filmmakers. His pieces are also sold at Neiman Marcus. “There’s a lot of mass-produced stuff around that looks fine,” he says, “but people say they feel a difference when you use something that someone has crafted with a part of themselves. You feel that when you touch handcrafted objects.”

Siegel’s work takes a surprising turn with Torn, a collection of handmade porcelain objects that the potter has delicately ripped—an homage to imperfection and intention. Siegel creates the kind of pristine white plates, cups and bowls you might see on a well-set table, except when you take a closer look you can’t help notice each bears a small tear. “The moment you tear part of these functional objects you sense an intention on the part of the creator,” he says. “The pieces move from being products to sculpture. The tear makes you reconsider the process and adds an element of menace to something that once seemed flawless.”

Siegel's Hots
Rogue Territory denim; Warby Parker eyewear; Sunday farmers market in Hollywood; CoolHAUS ice cream sandwiches; anything Roy Choi does; an incredibly loving and supportive family

Siegel's Nots 
Drunk drivers; $5-a-gallon gas creeping ever closer; politicians—all of them; global recession; those who do not value quality