Ceramic artist Michael Wisner learned much of his craft from Juan Quezada, the self-invented Mexican master who rediscovered ancient methods of Indian pottery. “I knocked on his door and told him I loved his work,” Wisner said. “And I ended up staying there for three months." During an 18-year period, Wisner estimates, he spent two and a half years with the recipient of Mexico’s coveted National Art Award. “I was keenly interested in his process, his attention to detail and his acute knowledge of materials,” Wisner said. "He’s constantly challenging himself, and you’re imbued with that when you work with him.”
Wisner’s most recent challenge came from the winemakers at Newton Vineyard in Napa Valley. For its third annual "Eco Chic" collaboration, Newton asked the Denver-based artist to develop a limited edition wine bottle chiller and coaster set. The artist responded by visiting the vineyards and harvesting clay from the soil where its grapes are grown. "It’s in the top two percent of any clay I’ve ever found," he said.
Once he’d designed and shaped the chiller and coasters, he fired them at 2,200 degrees for a pure, ivory white tint. The chiller’s shape, he said, resonates with the landscape of the mountain where the grapes are grown. Its abstracted pattern resembles the neck of a wine bottle on its positive impression, and a wine glass on its negative.
The artist signed and numbered an even 100 chillers and sets of four coasters. They’ll make their debut, appropriately enough, on Earth Day, 2011. Sets will be sold for $400, and can be found at newtonvineyard.com.
To see more images of Wisner's design, please view the slideshow.