Elsa Rady's love of ceramics dates to her childhood. Her parents enrolled her in classes, at age seven, at New York's Greenwich House Pottery; friend and classmate Carol Sackler, daughter of art collector Arthur M. Sackler, gave Rady her first glimpses of Chinese ceramics from the Song dynasty (960-1279) at the Sackler home, impressions that stayed with her and would later influence her work. In the 1960s, Rady studied at the Chouinard Art Institute in Los Angeles (now the California Institute of the Arts). Especially important to the development of her mature work was the school's emphasis on tradition and innovation, providing students with a solid foundation in classic ceramic forms while encouraging fresh interpretations. It was at Chouinard that Rady deepened her understanding of Chinese ceramics, and her elegant unadorned pieces from this time show the influence of Song dynasty wares. (Du Pont, In Dialogue: The Art of Elsa Rady and Robert Mapplethorpe, 1993)
Rady's work evolved from functional objects to the exquisitely spare, nonfunctional pieces she is best known for today. To liberate her creations from the tabletop and push the limits of conventional display strategies for ceramics, Rady insists on placing her vessels on wall-mounted shelves or suspending them mid-air from the ceiling on simple platforms with stainless steel cords, as in her remarkable "Cycladic Swing" series from 2005.