Perfectly Minimal

Craig Proper-ly captures the design moment--in ceramics, and otherwise.

by Veronica Pasfield | photos Phil Bearshield & Greer Inez

Minimalism is popular now. I’m resisting the temptation to adorn these sentences with modifiers such as wildly (although it is). Hemingway would probably like minimalist design; he avoided adjectives and adverbs. Note the restraint required of a minimalist in any category.

Can you dig it? Modernism owes everything to minimalism. Every time it cycles back, it refreshes our sensibilities about the essence of a thing. As minimalist sculptor Constantin Brancusi explained, “Simplicity is complexity resolved.”

Photo courtesy Craig Proper.

Taylor Dickerson, the ceramist behind Craig Proper Home, came upon working with clay organically. Born in Oklahoma City, he was exposed to Scandinavian design when he lived in Dublin from age seven to 13. (His family then returned to OKC). Early influences: skateboard culture. Current inspirations: ceramicist Takeshi Yasuda and Goldmark documentaries on potters around the world.

Visitors to the Kitchen at Commonplace Books dine off of Craig Proper dishes, made in Dickerson’s Farmer’s Market studio. “Craig” is Taylor’s middle name. He only later discovered it means “stone” in Scottish Gaelic. “Proper” comes from his Irish childhood, where he learned natty ways.

"I went to a private school and had to wear uniforms, use cutlery a certain way, all of that. And when I came back to the States…my friends used to tease me like, “Oh, look at you, you’re so proper eating your pizza with a knife and fork!"

Taylor at the wheel in his Farmer's Market district studio / photo: Greer Inez

Taylor Dickerson / photo: Greer Inez

Tell me a bit about how you came to pottery. I could never draw, or paint, or anything like that.  I’ve always seen myself being an entrepreneur, though, so I majored in Business at UCO. I was looking for a hobby, and it wasn’t until I took a pottery class at House of Clay that I accidentally discovered a passion and a medium where I felt I could actually express myself artistically.

Minimalism is it right now. But it requires a sharp eye and a lot of self-discipline. What’s your design process? It takes more discipline for me to add color at all. I’ve always been more attracted to the forms or shape of things, not necessarily the textures or colors. My design process always starts with a form in mind and what kind of angles or curves I would like to see, and then building other pieces around those foundational points.

What is it about minimalism that appeals to you? I imagine it has something to do with some kind of balance it might bring to my psyche. Anyone who knows me well knows I usually have clothes all over the floor, dishes in the sink. I don’t make the bed, I’m constantly late to pretty much any occasion. But, aesthetically, I really appreciate order.

Tell me about the process of creating a design. Let’s say I come up with an idea for a bowl. I have to think through and try out different throwing techniques, hand placements, which tools to use, etc. so that I can achieve a design aspect. If you know how to throw a cup, it doesn’t mean you can throw a plate.

A perfect design / photo: Phil Bearshield

Love that stackable mug…. (It’s) the first fully formed design I had hashed out, around which the rest of the tableware was built. It never made sense to me why all of my dishes could stack in my cupboard except for my 30 random cups. Why do we accept this travesty so blindly?! So, I wanted to design a mug with a handle that only attached at the top of the rim. There’s probably some old tin cup I saw in my grandpa’s garage when I was a kid that inspired this thought. I really enjoy that clay gives me the ability to make exactly what’s in my head and then use those items.

What do you hope users take away from your creations? (It’s so) important that my home feels like an extension of who I am. I don’t fill up rooms just because there’s space. I want Craig Proper to express yourself in your home.

Home as expression of self / photo: Phil Bearshield

Lead tabletop image by Phil Bearshield.