Forest of Shards Forest of Shards Zemer Peled with her art installation called "I Am Walking Among a Forest of Shards." (Photo: Courtesy of Zemer Peled)

Beautiful blooms through artful destruction

Zemer Peled creates floral sculptures with porcelain shards.

When you drop a dish in the kitchen, shards of porcelain go everywhere. To you, that may be a nuisance, but to Zemer Peled, it might be the beginning of a wonderful piece of art.

"My work is very brutal and very aggressive — the breaking and smashing all day," Peled told From The Grapevine from her studio in Montana, where she's serving a residency supported by the Archie Bray Foundation for the Ceramic Arts. "I’m working with a hammer — and the shards — sometimes they cut me and I’m bleeding, but in the end the result is really powerful and beautiful."

Large Peony and Peeping TomZemer Peled's sculpture "Large Peony and Peeping Tom." She often uses images of flowers and plants for her porcelain shard sculptress. (Photo: Courtesy of Zemer Peled)

Peled's process contains as much craftsmanship as it does artistry. The end results are sculptures big and small that represent various plants and flowers she's seen in Montana, her native Israel, and in London, where she earned a Masters degree at the Royal College of Art. Since developing this method two years ago, Peled has headlined a number of gallery shows and private sales.

Peled's method of making the shards or strips and attaching them to the clay form she creates for the sculpture is a painstaking process. First she dyes porcelain sheets and then smashes them with four different hammers. 

"Not all the shards look the same but I kind of know where to hit the porcelain to get the size and kind of the shape I want," she said. "But it’s random." 

Zemer Peled breaking shardsZemer Peled creates dyed porcelain slabs that she then breaks with a hammer. (Photo: Courtesy of Zemer Peled)

She then sorts the pieces by size and color. After sorting, she is ready to attach each shard into the clay form to complete the sculpture. Even the smallest sculptures need hundreds of shards. Large works, such as "Walking in a Forest of Shards," require thousands of shards and take almost four months to complete. 

"It takes me a lot of time just to produce the shards," Peled said. "It’s probably like half [the time]. It depends if someone is helping me." 

Zemer Peled with shardsZemer Peled as she organizes shards for her work by color and size. (Photo: Courtesy of Zemer Peled)

But the final results are stunning. Her sculptures are notable for their beauty from afar and for their complexity up close. 

The 31-year-old Peled wasn't a child prodigy. She taught herself this method and the skills needed to work with the clay, the porcelain, and the kiln.

Smaller shards containersSmaller shards are organized into containers. (Photo: Courtesy of Zemer Peled)

Peled discovered her talent in her mid-twenties, when she took art therapy to get over a bad break-up. The therapist gave her different materials to work with, which opened up her imagination, and reminded her of her childhood on a farm community in Northern Israel.

"As a child I always worked with materials because my mom always used to build things," she said. "So I was never thinking of this kind of direction in my life. I decided to work with clay and I fell in love." 

Zemer PeledZemer Peled applying shards to a sculpture. (Photo: Courtesy of Zemer Peled)

She took night classes for a few months, then went back to live with her parents. At that point, "I realized how important it is for me, what it gives to me to work with art. I became interested more and more in art and in sculpture." She was accepted into the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design in Jerusalem and from there went to the Royal College of Art in London.

Zemer Peled porcelain shard flowerZemer Peled creates intricate sculptures, like this flower, with porcelain shards and strips. (Photo: Courtesy of Zemer Peled)

After her two-year residency in Montana is over, she'll move to Baltimore to be close to her brother Amit, an accomplished cellist. Last year, they collaborated on a project called "Pablo and Me" in Cape Cod. He played a cello gifted to him by the family of Pablo Casals, one of the greatest cellists of the twentieth century, while surrounded by Zemer's art.

 "I think for maybe four years I was like, whoa I can’t believe this is happening," she said about her art career. "I found my way. So now I’m looking at it and I’m so grateful. I was so young. It takes people years to find what they want, and yeah, I’m grateful to this idiot guy that broke up with me."


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Beautiful blooms through artful destruction
Zemer Peled creates floral sculptures with porcelain shards.