Amid epic environs, ceramicist Chris Brock creates some of California’s most collectible vessels
Words by L.D. PORTER
Photography by DEWEY NICKS
Ceramicist Chris Brock is inherently creative, the type of person who changes mediums fearlessly and instinctively. Over his professional lifetime he’s transitioned from arranging flowers to designing gardens to his current medium, clay, which he discovered after relocating from his native Los Angeles to a hilltop Modern Craftsman home he describes as “tiny, well-sited, and oozing charm” in Ojai six years ago. Simply put, Brock makes pots. But calling them pots seems wrong, as Brock’s vessels are iconic and grand, appearing ancient and modern at the same time, due in part to his layered glazing technique.
“I wanted to make very refined deco pieces,” he says. “And I realized that stoneware, the clay that I use, is a bit rougher and is not only not refined, it’s quite earthy and rustic. So it informed me that the pieces were going to be both refined in design and rustic in execution and finish.” He considers himself a direct descendant of Ojai’s trailblazing potters, the most famous being “Mama of Dada” Beatrice Wood, as well as Otto and Vivika Heino (a duo renowned for their glazes) and Larry Carnes, a contemporary potter who taught Brock the basics, including the ancient coiling technique he uses to form his pieces.
Although he’s been working with clay for a relatively short time, Brock’s two shows at Rick Owens’ avant-garde West Hollywood boutique were resoundingly successful, with sophisticated collectors such as Alix Goldsmith, Anna Getty, Nate Ruess and Charlotte Ronson snapping up his work.
The artist is also one half of a style power couple whose meet-cute took place in 1999 at Michèle Lamy’s memorably chic restaurant Les Deux Café, where Brock arranged flowers, and his future husband, Paul Fortune, created the interiors. Fortune, an irreverent and revered interior designer, just penned his own shelter tome, Notes on Décor, Etc. And designer Marc Jacobs, who is a repeat client, enlisted Fortune to work his magic on a recently acquired Frank Lloyd Wright home in Rye, New York (where Fortune just attended Jacobs’ nuptials to Charly Defrancesco with one of Brock’s pots in tow as a wedding gift).
A vintage 1949 orange and white Schult trailer — a surprise gift from Fortune — serves as Brock’s ceramics studio, which is parked next to another Fortune gift, a 1967 Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow fondly known as Joyce. “Rolls-Royces make great birthday presents,” Brock quips. Since arriving in Ojai, Joyce has been repainted from midnight blue to sable brown. “It looks divine here in Ojai, where the official color is brown,” says Brock, who also had Joyce adorned with an orangey-red pinstripe. “A good friend says it’s very Hermès,” he says with a shrug.
With his slender frame and leading man looks, Brock is also known for his polished sartorial tastes. The New York Times once compared his upscale style to Eva Gabor’s lavishly dressed character Lisa Douglas at her farm on the classic TV sitcom Green Acres. Brock’s Ojai uniform is comprised of Wrangler polyester jeans purchased at a western store in nearby Santa Paula (“you can only wear them about three months of the year because they’re polyester and they hold in all the heat”) and SeaVees slip-on canvas deck shoes he discovered shortly after arriving in Ojai. “You can’t wear green-and-red-striped horsebit patent loafers out during the day in the country,” he surmises, hence the deck shoes. After Brock appeared on the cover of Santa Barbara Magazine wearing SeaVees, the brand asked him to be one of its ambassadors. “They send me dozens of pairs a year,” he says with a grin.
This story originally appeared in Spring 2019 Men’s Edition of C magazine.