Hamtramck Ceramck is an artist collective and curatorial project that uses ceramics as a vehicle for collaboration. It was founded in 2015, and its current active members are Braden Baer (from Port Huron, MI), Amber Locke (from Ann Arbor, MI), and Ben Saginaw (from Geneva, IN).
The members of the group maintain a consistent ceramic practice in the studio space, creating objects and collaborating frequently both within and beyond the collective. The current group aren’t traditionally trained ceramic artists, and tend to approach the medium with a sense of freedom and curiosity. In a sometimes stuffy medium, their work stands out for its sense of playful exploration. Their works are sometimes functional, sometimes ornamental, each possessing their own historical—and often pop cultural—significance and representing the collective’s shared memories and interests.
The collective’s studio functions in many ways as a hub for the Hamtramck art community. It’s a center of activity, with people constantly popping in to say hello, have a beer, or to work on a one-off ceramic piece. Pre-Covid, the studio had opened itself to local Hamtramck kids to stop by, make objects, and participate in free, informal instructional classes. The vibe of the space is open and upbeat. Portage Garage, which houses the studio, is also the home to an exhibition space and Portage Garage Sounds, a record label and recording studio. With all of this activity, it’s incredibly rare to stop by the studio in the evenings and find fewer than four people in the building. Speaking collectively about Hamtramck, the crew says: “Outside of Queens, NY, it has one of the highest per capita rates of different national backgrounds represented in the community. It’s also one of two separate municipalities inside Detroit, the other being Highland Park—similar to the Vatican or something.”
As fans of Hamtramck Cermack, we saw this as a great occasion to commission them. They’ve created a small run of work representing all the different threads of this project, filtering skateboarding, basketball, and classic collegiate aesthetics through their unique lens, producing a set of co-branded ceramic skate wheels that we will be raffling off exclusively through our Wealthy location. Stop in to find out details.
Speaking about the impact skating has had on their work, the crew says: “Skating to us was never about athletics, but rather about anti-authoritarian energy. The beauty is that it wasn’t sport and that the only rule was self-expression. It was one of the first DIY cultures we engrained ourselves in that included fashion, architecture, film, music, and art. Whether or not we all were ‘skaters,’ we all have an interest in the community and are aligned adjacently. Sports is part of culture, and as artists I think our general discourse is to assess/regurgitate/critique/assemble cultural signifiers into charged objects or images. While our work isn’t about sports, we often cite things in sports that have meaning beyond athletics.”