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All Fired Up

With a new show this summer, a gallerist champions the art of a local ceramicist.


The ceramist in his studio, with a Tom Sandonato painting behind him.

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Len Carella’s porcelain bud vase with a satin black glaze, and a large-scale high-fire stoneware vessel with a satin white glaze and leather cording that will be included in Line + Form.

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Carella’s sculpture with a pewter-glazed interior, lidded jar with a mushroom matte glaze and leather pull, and sculpture with a Shino glaze—all made of porcelain and for sale at Themes+Projects.

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The upcoming Line + Form exhibition brings together two native sons of Silicon Valley: Bryan Yedinak, who grew up in San Jose, and Len Carella, who hails from San Mateo. The former is now the director of Themes+Projects gallery, while the latter churns out one-of-a-kind ceramics. Carella’s vessels and sculptures are modern and minimalist, their clean lines mated with elegant leather and cork details. In his San Francisco studio, he uses a high-fire process, where the kiln exceeds 2,300 degrees. “The end result is what’s so incredible,” Carella observes. “The glazes that can withstand those temperatures create a deep, luminous, rich color, and the clay is strong and durable.”

While his work has sold well commercially and his utilitarian range of stoneware can be found in upscale boutiques and trendy restaurants, Line + Form is an opportunity for Carella to reach a new audience: gallerygoers at S.F. art hub Minnesota Street Project, where Themes+Projects is located. For Yedinak, the show is about spotlighting the craft movement, the same way he would fine arts. “I’m looking at Len as seriously as the artists and painters who have shown here for years,” he explains. “These craftspeople are just as talented, and it’s exciting to bring them into this gallery setting.”

The exhibition—which runs Aug. 4 to Sept. 30—will also feature macramé artist Windy Chien. Expect to see Carella’s 3-D tile wall hangings, large-scale vessels and even a few mobiles, all designed to complement Chien’s fiber handiwork. “The gallery itself really inspired me,” says Carella. “There is so much wall space, I wanted to create more sculptural works that could take up that space.” Like his smaller ceramics, though, creativity and quality reign supreme. “I want to create timeless pieces of the highest quality,” he adds. “Pieces that are luxurious, that are coveted and passed down.”

Originally published in the July/August issue of Silicon Valley

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