It’s not unusual for people of taste and refinement to live surrounded by beautiful art and fine furnishings, but few would deny that our most treasured objects are the ones we use day after day. The vessel brimming over with morning coffee, the plate where we lay our toast, the bowl abounding with fruit—all are incredibly personal and indicative of home.
It is with this understanding that potter Eve Behar makes her colorful ceramics, spinning mugs, teapots, plates, bowls and much more in her Sag Harbor studio. Behar always had an attraction to, and penchant for, art in its many forms, from painting to theater, to music and even creative writing, but something special happened the first time she pushed her fingers into a bucket of cool, damp clay.
“When I came to clay, it somehow clicked in a way that made me want to keep working at it and getting better at it,” Behar recalls. “The fact that it’s technical, the fact that it’s utilitarian, for me, that’s a huge part of it. I like functional pots,” she continues, describing her love of the medium to which she’s dedicated her artistic and professional life. “That doesn’t mean they have to be boring, but I like the fact that they’re for use in the home. I like the hominess of it. I want them to be in your kitchen, the thing you go to in the morning for your coffee,” she adds. “Right now, we’re almost at the point where everything we use is handmade in my kitchen.”
A native New Yorker, Behar took her first ceramics class at a small Upper East Side studio during her time studying at Hunter College. “I kind of just got instantly hooked,” she says, noting that this introduction was outside of school, and while the craft made an impression, and she took a few more classes at Hunter during her senior year, it would be some time before she answered ceramics’ call in earnest.
After school, Behar began a career in television production, but she continued working with clay as a hobby. Then, a few years in, she decided to leave the business, for the first time, and go to Italy to earn a post-baccalaureate certificate in ceramics. It went well and cemented her focus.
“After that, when I came home, I said, ‘That’s it, I’m only doing clay.’ I started working for a woman and doing my own thing, and waiting tables,” Behar says, explaining that she was finally making money doing ceramics as a part-time slip casting assistant, making molds at a small shop for mass-produced retail pottery, but she eventually tired of waitressing to stay afloat. Right around that time, her old TV contacts came calling again.
“They pulled me back in,” she laughs, pointing out that the freelance nature of the television business made it harder for her to decline their offers. “I went back for a while, but the thing is, I was never that good at it, because I hated it.” Behar wanted to stop trying to fit in where she knew she didn’t belong. From there, the emerging artisan committed to studying ceramics at Sheridan College in Canada, where she truly found her voice at the potter’s wheel.
“It was fantastic, it was exactly what I needed,” she says, fondly recalling the experience and vital education, which culminated in her winning Best in Show at her 2004 graduate show. “Basically I was in the studio the whole time. When that was done, I came back, I did one more job in TV and then I was done.”
Full of confidence in her abilities, Behar opened a studio in the Bronx and began selling at both wholesale and retail ceramics shows. She was starting to make a name, but she was craving a different life. With a new husband, Alphonso Scotti, and baby son, the Hamptons seemed like the perfect place to go. “I was done with the city,” Behar says, pointing out that she’d grown up staying with her mother, comedian Joy Behar, in Sagaponack and East Hampton, and had a longtime love of the area.
Behar has since built an impressive body of work featuring an array of lively, individually handmade pieces, leading to gallery shows and accolades, including the cover of the 2015 Potter’s Council calendar, a feature with Ceramics Monthly and more. Each bowl, mug, plate or table accessory demonstrates her excellent talent for creating unique forms and hand-painted glaze design motifs.
“It’s a lot of science. It’s a lot of muscle memory. It’s very physical. And then there’s the aesthetics. It’s three-dimensional and two-dimensional, so you have to decide where you’re going to pay more attention sometimes,” Behar says. “For me, form is very important. I like to challenge notions. I like to also think of myself as being a 21st century potter, not someone who’s trying to replicate something from 10,000 years ago, but still appreciating,” she continues. “There are so many pots you can make, there are cups, there are vases—but how do you make it yours? How do you push it forward?”
Now flourishing in her Sag Harbor studio, surrounded by beautiful, functional works of art only she could make, it appears Behar has found her answer.
Learn more about Eve Behar and her ceramics at evebehar.com.