Jan Sadowski can attest to the durability of his pottery. “I’m still using dinner plates I made 39 years ago,” says Sadowski, who operates his pottery business, Terrestrial Forms, from his Howell home. “They’re still doing fine, as long as you don’t drop them.”
His elegant chargers, trays, jars, planters, pie plates, platters, pitchers, and bowls — meant to be used as well as admired — are fired in one of the four kilns at his home studio.
In his own kitchen, his stoneware pie plates get a workout when the weather turns cooler. Choosing apples “fresh off the tree,” Sadowski will whip up a fresh pie and bake it in one of his own pie plates.
The pie tastes better, Sadowski insists. “Of course, handmade pies (should be served) on handmade plates,” he adds. (Local interior designer Elizabeth Fields, featured in this issue’s “In Residence,” is an avid collector of Sadowski and other potters’ works.) Sadowski got his start in his craft at Groves High School in Birmingham in the 1960s, where he took an art class from teacher George Landino, who’s now retired. “He had this incredible, inspiring class,” Sadowski recalls. “The class just clicked. Everyone went on to be a professional.”
One day, Landino introduced Sadowski to long-time, renowned potter John Glick, of Farmington Hills.
Sadowski worked alongside Glick for four years, and attended Wayne State University studying art. After graduation, he landed a part-time job at the Birmingham Bloomfield Art Association.
“They eventually made me artist in residence,” says Sadowski, who stayed there more than 20 years as head of the ceramics department. He’s now on his own, creating and selling his graceful, durable pottery at art fairs around the state. He also teaches pottery at Oakland Community College in Royal Oak.
Sadowski’s pottery is high-fired. All creations are dishwasher- and microwave-safe, and lead-free. His pie plates are 11 inches wide and 1.5 inches deep. Platters are 18 to 20 inches long and silver-copper in color, with a carved, abstract linear decoration in the center.
If Sadowski runs out of his platters during an art fair, he’ll grab some from his kitchen, where they are displayed on plate stands. He knows he’ll make more later, after the fairs end.
Having functional art in your home can become a pleasant habit, Sadowski says.”If I go to somebody’s home where they use mass-produced dinnerware, it doesn’t feel comfortable.”
There’s a familiarity, a connection, to a hand-crafted piece.
“You get attuned to it.”