They say that creativity is the joining of two unlike things into something altogether new. It’s a powerful juxtaposition, and sometimes a collision that elevates both elements into an entirely new realm of possibility.
In the art world, juxtaposition is as much a physical expression as it is a symbolic one. Mid Century sculptor and performance artist Joseph Beuys implemented this dichotomous expression in his sculptural work, particularly utilizing such unheard of components as felt and animal fat. Inspired by Beuys, modern-day ceramicists Nate Mell and Wynn Bauer have made this legacy of intentionality and daring material risk-taking their namesake. As a duo, the two go by Felt + Fat, and in a few short years have built their reputation on pushing the bounds of their medium with genuine and active curiosity.
Nate and Wynn first met at a gallery and art space called The Clay Studio in Old City Philadelphia. As a collaborative spot for all levels of ceramicists, it hosted resident artists and weekly classes. Wynn was one such artist in the studio, balancing a steady flow of freelance ceramic prototyping here and there. He was precise and exacting in his work, influenced by years spent studying architecture and the beautiful lacquerware he’d seen growing up traveling all across Asia. Nate, on the other hand, had come to The Clay Studio with a background in glass and mold making. Curious about ceramics, he had come in as a part of a work exchange program that gave him full access to the facilities and the freedom to dabble and learn.
Long before The Clay Studio, Nate worked in restaurants all over the city. With a long history in the business, Nate began noticing an exciting shift headed towards Philadelphia. Trickling down from the best of the best – places like Copenhagen’s NOMA – locally sourced plateware was popping up in all of the finest spots. Small batch ceramics echoed the delicacy of these meticulously plated dishes, and represented an upgrade in the entire dining experience. Just like any handmade item over a mass-produced one, these small batch ceramics communicated to the clientele a value system, an intentional stake in the local economy that went beyond sourcing ingredients.