People of Austin Profile Series
Tucked among the flashy new restaurants and chic boutiques on East Cesar Chavez is a small pottery studio recognizable only by the colorful murals that swirl along the outside.
Inside, the walls are lined with dozens of ceramics handmade by Ryan McKerley, one of Austin’s most in-demand artisans.
An Austinite for nearly two decades, McKerley attended art school at Abilene Christian University. While there, he tried his hand at painting and drawing, but found himself drawn to pottery and sculpture. “It was like a group activity,” he muses as we sip iced coffees in the backyard of Friends and Neighbors. “It made a big impression on me that you could sell something small at a much lower price than a large painting or sculpture.”
McKerley has spent his career developing a technique which implements everything from wax to masking tape in order to achieve his intricate, colorful designs. Recently, however, he began perfecting the art of the plate, creating chic white-on-white dinnerware that would look at home on pretty much any table.
Though a solo artist at heart, McKerley does collaborate with another well-known local artist, ceramicist Keith Kreeger. Together the duo have created Make. Eat. Drink., an annual event that pairs local artists and chefs for an ethereal evening celebrating art and cuisine. But you won’t have to wait until the next Make. Eat. Drink. to see McKerley’s work. His pottery will also be featured at Juniper, an Italian restaurant slated to open on East Cesar Chavez later this year.
WHEN AND WHERE ARE YOU HAPPIEST?
Sometimes I am happiest alone in my studio and other times I am happiest with my studio mates in my studio. Or at a Slayer concert.
WHAT IS YOUR PROUDEST PROFESSIONAL ACCOMPLISHMENT? PERSONAL?
Being on the cover of Ceramics Monthly in 2006 was pretty cool. My proudest personal accomplishment is owning a house and a car that both work well simultaneously.
WHAT IS YOUR PROCESS LIKE FOR CREATING NEW WORK?
Lots of times it’s looking at the previous kiln, the work from the previous firing. [I’m] looking at what was successful, and what was unsuccessful… taking away the bad parts. It’s a lot like editing.
LIVING OR DEAD, WHO WOULD YOU MOST LIKE TO COLLABORATE WITH?
DESCRIBE YOUR PERFECT DAY.
My perfect day would be sleeping until 10 then having coffee with a friend, then having lunch with another friend, then unloading my kiln and finding everything in the firing was perfect and then going to a Slayer concert and then going home and watching the sunrise with a pretty lady.