Local Ceramicist Shares The Inspiration Behind His Animistic Creations

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Courtesy of Julian Dunn

Astute owls, earnest raccoons, and mischievous foxes are just a few of the charming characters you’ll find represented in this artist’s convocation of functional ceramic pottery.

Paws and Tentacles is home to the work of Julian Dunn, an artist, educator, musician and ceramicist. Dunn grew up in Harmony, PA and worked for many years in his parents’ antique shop. It was here that he developed a love of primitive furniture and antique cookware, all of which have been influential in his aesthetic and approach to pottery.

Dunn now resides in the Wilkinsburg region. Operating out of the Carnegie Library’s Bath House Ceramic Studio in Braddock, Dunn has been working with clay for the past three years. His informal training has led to the manifestation of mugs, crocks, teapots, cookie jars, butter dishes, and many other usable ceramic pieces.


With much of his work escaping the confines of ceramics we’ve become accustomed to, Paws and Tentacles instead finds inspiration in childhood wonderment. On his work, Dunn has said that “who we were as [children] says a lot about us” and that in his own adolescence he would “crawl under the hairy paw dining table in [his] parents’ home and wrap [himself] around those massive wooden lion legs”.

“In my music I want the rhythms loose and the timbres guttural and powerful: primitive and animal-like. I think my work in pottery is a continuation of that. I like art that has a strong connection to nature and so I pursue that in my own work.” -Julian Dunn

This inspiration from his childhood was paired with an early curiosity for the strange; “Outside I’d find groundhog and raccoon skulls under a giant hundred-year old lilac”. Dunn’s fascination with nature and animal forms continued to grow and eventually developed into drawings of “animals with wild and crazy fur, rows of razor sharp teeth, and powerful legs”.

Julian Dunn has developed a sense of style which speaks to the aesthetics of his upbringing: wonderful menageries of pottery, metalwork, flora, taxidermy, bird’s nests, beehives, glassware, and flowers decorating the family home.

To see more of his work visit Paws and Tentacles Ceramics or his Etsy store here.