Nash’s innovative African ceramic art evokes the historical practices found within the construction of handmade ceramic sculptures. He incorporates various clay building techniques utilizing materials such as stoneware, terra cotta, earthenware and porcelain; his pieces are then pit fired using raku glazing techniques, which create his unique “African-Nouveau” style. An ode to traditional methodologies for working, Nash glazes, burnishes and carves onto the surface of his African stoneware sculptures. These decorative patterns are direct references to many indigenous cultures in Africa, like the clay pottery and handmade ceramic sculptures found in Burkina Faso, or inscribed vessels from the Igbo culture in Southern Nigeria. African ceramic art originated in 7000 to 6000 BCE in the present day areas of Sudan, Egypt and Ethiopia.

African ceramic art

Traditional African ceramic art pieces were most often clay vessels that carried water or food. Many of these vessels had purely decorative attachments that beautified the resulting product. Often, clay vessels also had functional lids used for properly storing goods. In addition to functional objects, African stoneware sculptures have been used for ceremonial purposes, metaphysical needs, and in burial rituals. In contrast, unlike traditional African ceramic art, Nash’s work functions solely as a decorative element to any collector’s space, while still upholding the mystique held within the desire to construct objects for spiritual purposes. Overall, the medium of clay simultaneously lends its maker to combine both art and craft together: form and function cannot coexist without referencing the origins and necessity of clay as an earthen material.

In many historical contexts, African clay art and artifacts were constructed using handbuilding techniques like coil building. Prior to construction, communities needed to source the materials to create the clay. People needed to mine and prepare the clay, then blend it with water until it became malleable. Matter like ground sand, pebbles or old pottery, chopped dried grass and dung or crushed chaff was then kneaded into the clay to decrease the shrinkage that occurs during the drying and firing processes. In all clay processes, the artwork needs to be fired twice – once to create bisqueware, which is pottery that has gone through an initial firing, and then again after a work is glazed. In contemporary settings, the playful exploration for artists comes more exclusively in the form of constructing, glazing, and developing a cohesive way of working with stoneware, terra cotta, porcelain, or other clay-derived materials.