Beth Katz, seated at her foot-powered potter’s wheel, can work alfresco overlooking her garden surrounded by fruit trees.
Beth is the best stacker, exclaims photographer Victoria Pearson. The Naturally crew has gathered at ceramicist Beth Katz’s house in the Mt. Washington neighborhood of Los Angeles and we marvel at her handmade plates, bowls, vases and cups, all artfully displayed on open shelves in her kitchen. Her home, a study in shades of white and varied textures, exhibits her work effortlessly. Everywhere there’s evidence of her hand, an aesthetic imprint that says all the right things about the modern American craft movement. Beth can do anything, Victoria adds.
It’s true. Friends like Victoria know Beth as a creative doyenne who can knit, sew, cook, design interiors, make jewelry and even steep her own Kombucha tea. Just over a year ago, the birth of Mt. Washington Pottery enabled Beth to channel all that creative energy into her lifelong passion for the art of ceramics. I love the tradition of craft, she says. One of my goals was to turn my hobby into a business, and it finally feels like I’m on the right track.
The road from amateur to entrepreneur hasn’t been a straight one. For Beth, that’s okay. Everything I did before brought me to where I am today, she explains. Her philosophical approach isn’t surprising coming from someone who earned a masters degree in Spiritual Psychology and who says, I’ve always been a seeker, someone who asks lots of questions. But she also has a cool practicality that launched a successful career as a makeup artist that took her all over the world working on campaigns for top fashion brands with high profile photographers and models. She later became a creative director for Fit Pregnancy and the late Natural
The home office displays portraits of family members painted by her great-uncle that Beth layered with her ceramic bells. I find the paintings comforting, she says.
I LIKE QUIET MOMENTS AND SIMPLICITY.”
Beth’s meditation room (abovej doubles as a media room; it’s also a favorite spot for dogs Petal and Happi.
Health magazine. She even did Courteney Cox’s makeup for eight seasons of Friends.
All the while she continued to make ceramics and explore her artistic side as more of a spiritual, contemplative practice. I grew up with a lot of artists in my family and I thought it was an irresponsible profession that you couldn’t count on to make money, so I never really let myself think about making art for a living.
But sometimes life hands you the opportunity you’ve been waiting foreven if it comes in disguise. The magazine she had been working for moved its offices to New York, and Beth saw this as an opportunity. She had about nine months of funds saved and decided to give herself three or four months to just make art.
I learned that part of being an artist is being flexible. You may have a plan and then everything changes, so you have to go with it and see what happens. That’s the exciting part. But she did have moments fearing the risk she was about to take. There was some freak-out management, she admits. But then I realized I had a choice about how I was going to experience what I was going through, and I decided it was going to be okay. That faith, coupled with lots of hard work, enabled her to practice her craft on her own terms.
The results are organic yet thoroughly modern vessels, plates, bells and talismans inspired by a 1970s childhood in Topanga and Laurel Canyons. Those California-modern moments converge with Beth’s passion for Japanese pottery, Indian textiles and fashion to create a style that is restrained in her color palette but multi-dimensional in form and texture. Some glazes shimmer with speckles of oxidization; other pieces are more quiet in warm earth tones or cool blues.
One afternoon at her studio, as Beth removes pieces from the kiln, she relishes the surprises that emerge. Firing pottery in a 2,300-degree gas oven is far from an exact science, yet for Beth that unpredictability produces welcome discovery. Perfection isn’t my goal, she explains. I always say practice makes imperfect and that’s the beauty of making something by hand.