Z Kaplan (they/them)

Z is a queer, Jewish, gender-liberated ceramicist raised on Ojibwe, Odawa, and Bodewadmi land known as “Chicago.” Working with clay began as a pastime as a child taking neighborhood park district classes but has since transformed into a means of expression and community. Ever since they began a year-long Emerging Artist BISQUE residency in 2021 at the Northern Clay Center in Minneapolis, they have been using their resources to explore a new relationship with clay and the firing process to form creations that are kinetic and dynamic. Recently, Z has been incorporating their values of doikayt, hereness, to invoke pieces that connect to their roots and to others in a way that explores desires for grounding and play in a reality that is deeply diasporic. The unpredictability of living in diaspora and their queer identity is reflected in the creation of sculptural functional ware that exhibit play and whimsy through their often absurd slab-cut protrusions. They primarily use atmospheric firings (soda firing and wood firing) to complete their work. In both of these firing methods, the pieces are subject to their atmosphere meaning that the results are unpredictable and no two pieces will ever emerge the same. The material vulnerability of atmospheric firing allows for cohesion and dissonance - highlighting the unpredictable nature within the habitual. 

As a community-oriented person who works for the betterment of their world through organizing and takes on the role of a teacher in various contexts, they are motivated by bringing joy, justice, and comfort to others. They believe that ceramics add a spark of play into the mundane and that principle motivates them to continue to make work and teach. Their recent creative work aims to fill a gap in Jewish life in the Twin Cities. In using atmospheric firings to re-envision ritual objects, they work toward subverting the often rigid quality of traditional judaica. In creating commentary on conventional judaica while breaking through boundaries of tradition through their ceramics, organizing, workshops, and more, they support others in becoming agents in their own spiritual and cultural practices. They plan to continue to offer recipes toward home-building through exploring ways to reclaim ritual objects through ceramics and other sculptural mediums while elevating historic ways that Jews have resisted the perils of assimilation, deculturation, and zionism.


Please reach out if you are interested in commissions or collaborations!


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