Sanam Emami is a studio potter with a distinctive appreciation for the past. Her signature form is the tulip vase, the multi spouted, tin-glazed concoction that dates from the tulip craze that swept much of Western Europe in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. In Emami’s hands however, the vase becomes contemporary and personal. Her current exhibition, Organic Precisionism, at the Greenwich House Pottery in New York City showcases iterations of a form she has been developing for the past several years. Crisp and precisely decorated, Emami’s tulip vases and trivets are on view through March 14.
Emami first became interested in the tulip vase when she spotted a pair of four-foot tall Delft examples on a visit to San Francisco’s de Young Museum. Later, while studying ceramics as a graduate student she began to research the form, and became interested in the tulip as an emblem of migration and cross-cultural exchange. (Tulip bulbs, native to Central Asia, were first cultivated in the royal courts of the Ottomans in the early sixteenth century, and later introduced in Europe by the Flemish botanist Carolus Clusius.) “This nomadic story resonated with me due to my experience of moving from the Middle East to Europe to America,” Emami says. “I wanted to bring forward the Middle Eastern roots of the object and based my vases on Islamic and Iranian architecture. I love the way that Persian miniatures, the pages of the Koran, the walls of the mosque, all include an eclectic layering of colors and patterns. That is what I strive to recreate in my pieces.”
Images from top: Detail view of Organic Precisionism with a tulip vase by Sanam Emami, 2009. Pair of tulip vases by Adriaenus Koeks, 1687-1701. Tin- glazed earthenware; height 39 3/8, width 9 1/2, depth 9 1/2 inches. Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, bequest of Frances Alder Elkins, 55.9.1a-f and 55.9.21a-f.