The art of a beer stein

“Steinzeukrug” exhibit at Claymakers shows ceramic creations
Oct. 04, 2013 @ 01:40 PM

If Oktoberfest and the World Beer Festival leave you thirsting for more beer culture this month, Claymakers Gallery is opening an exhibit of new takes on an old German craft: beer steins.

“Steinzeugkrug: Present Day Interpretations” opens Friday with a reception from 6 to 9 p.m. at Claymakers Gallery on Foster Street, then will be on display during gallery hours through Nov. 16. It’s the first of what will be an annual exhibit.

Curator Gillian Parke was happily surprised at the response she received to the invited show, which will feature more than 200 ceramic steins handmade by 65 artists from the United States and Canada.

Parke, an artist herself, was invited to show in an exhibit last year at the American Museum of Ceramic Art featuring Mettlach ware, made between 1850 and 1910 in Germany. Her own work combines English fine china methods using porcelain, informed by a Japanese aesthetic. A lot of the collection exhibited were steins, she said, and she got the idea for a stein-only show at Claymakers.

Stein means “stone” in German, referring to the stoneware method used to make the beer mugs, which were first made of pewter. The lids, Parke explained, were added because of a hygiene law during the bubonic plague. The steins in the show range from kitsch to art nouveau, she said. One is shaped like a rocket, another decorated with birds. Some are simple, others are ornate. Some have lids, some don’t.

So what constitutes a stein?

“We left it up to personal interpretations,” she said, but typically a stein holds a half-liter or liter of beverage. Plus they’re taller than your usual mug.

“Now, for me personally the object of the stein is a really unique form because there’s something magical about making something people hold in their hand and bring to their lips,” Parke said.

All the steins will be for sale, and range in price from $38 to $5,000. Most cost about $50 to $60.

A beer drinker herself, Parke said it’s an amazing connection how craft brewing in the U.S. is being replicated now in Europe, which is the origin of beer steins.

“It’s almost this circle. We’re celebrating this ceramic form created in Europe,” she said.

“It’s a really fun show, with something for everyone if they just want something to drink beer from, or if they come for the ceramic quality work,” Parke said.