Kith and Kiln

A Pasadena native finds comfort in clay.

By Andrew Crowley

Raised in Pasadena, Stanley Edmondson can recall the exact moment he knew making art would be his life’s focus. By his recollection, he was young, maybe 3 or 4 years old. He and his best friend were sitting in a mud puddle making pies, not far from Frank Lloyd Wright’s La Miniatura.

“And I swear to God it occurred to me at that point in my life that I would be doing that for the rest of my life,” Edmondson says. “I was home.”

That early interest in art was influenced by his father, Leonard Edmondson, chairman of the design department at Otis College of Art and Design in Los Angeles. Sculptors like Peter Voulkos were regular fixtures at the Edmondson home—and that left an impression on young Stanley.

“I really looked up to them and I really wanted to be able to communicate with them,” Edmondson says. “And so, I started working with clay, because clay was around. My dad had a big kiln in our backyard.”

Working with clay was also a way for Edmondson to bond with his father.

“My father’s the kind of artist that had nothing to say to you if it wasn’t about art,” Edmondson says. “If you wanted to talk to my dad, it had to be about art. And I adored my father. Of course, in order to communicate with him, I had to learn the language of aesthetics from a very young age.”

His father encouraged his son’s artistic pursuits and gave Edmondson his first potter’s wheel and kiln when he was 12 years old.

Clay has been a constant refuge for Edmondson, something he turns to for catharsis.

“I could be having the worst day and if you put a piece of clay in front of me, as soon as I get my fingers in the clay it starts becoming me and I start becoming it,” he says. “I feel so much better.”

Last year, Nicodim Gallery hosted its first exhibition of Edmondson’s work, a show titled “Stanley’s Circus,” inspired by the work of sculptor Alexander Calder and the effects of the pandemic on daily life.

“I’m a really good fit with Nicodim on a psychological level,” Edmonson says. “They’re friends, they’re family. I really feel that.”