My name is Leah Ball, and I make ceramic home goods, cast metal jewelry and accessories in Chicago, Illinois.
I was making jewelry off and on for years before I found a process that felt genuine and uniquely me. It happened when I started repurposing pieces of bronze slag that I found on the floor of the foundry where I worked. The grit and strength of the resulting necklaces spoke to me, so I started carving wax with similar shapes and textures in mind.
Once I had my own jewelry collection, I started doing local craft fairs and trade shows. Brainstorming clever ways to display my work led to ceramics – the second I put my hands in the clay, I was hooked. Not long after I started making ring holders and plates, a teacher introduced me to clay marbling. I felt an instant attraction to this process and spent months working to perfect my technique. Last fall, I launched a small collection.
Marbling porcelain is a many-layered labor of love. Through experimentation, repetition and practice, I’ve started to understand how to control and bend this medium to create patterns and compositions that are veined like marble, striated like cut limestone, and speckled like animal hide. I find it poetic that the colors and patterns of these pieces aren’t merely skin deep — the process imparts detail to the clay body itself, as opposed to just the surface.
I think larger economies and big businesses tend to put a lot of attention on an outcome rather than the work itself; many people are stuck doing work that’s less than fulfilling and seemingly disconnected. Places like Etsy, and local craft fairs and boutiques, help facilitate smaller economies where business owners are intimately connected with both the product and the process. That’s meaningful and fulfilling, and I feel lucky to be a part of it.
Maker photo and tools by Kari Skaflen, marbled clay and kiln photo by Leah Ball, outdoor process photo by Scottie McNiece, final product photo by Angie West.