Inspiration : Laurie Poast {ceramics}

poast - architectural wall installation

POAST – architectural wall installation

Laurie Poast grew up in a little farming village in Wisconsin, dreaming of the far-off places of her ancestors and pondering the magic of craftsmanship in the workshop of her father, the master luthier Ron Poast.

It was the architecture of her heritage in particular that captured her imagination – Norwegian, German, English – and all its forms that resonate with the history of the people that built them.

 

poast - amsterdam architecture

POAST – amsterdam architecture

 

Since studying fine arts education in Madison, WI, Laurie built on that knowledge of craftsmanship and history of art, and looked further to the historic architecture of other countries of migrants –  Switzerland, Italy, France, Greece and more. She is entranced by their distinctive forms; decorative and practical in varying degrees, but each with its own regional expression.

Translated into porcelain and stripped of colour, these tiny sculptures hint at stories of emigration and ancestral home; a kind of beautiful shadowland that has no presence except in memory. Singly, or grouped in cities, the works are elegant and intriguing.

 

poast - countryside houses set

laurie poast – countryside houses set

 

poast - french farmhouses

POAST – french farmhouses

 

Laurie worked with numerous American companies and arts organizations for several years gaining valuable business experience, and this eventually led into her to launching her own company in Norway, POAST Art & Design, which now serves over 300 contracted artists and interior designers.

 

poast - paris tree ornament

POAST – paris tree ornament

 

Her work has been featured in major publications and blogs including The Huffington Post, Homes and Gardens Magazine UK, Apartment Therapy, Sweet Paul Magazine, West Elm, Remodelista, Etsy Blog.

 

workshop

workshop

 

poast - porcelain cityscape - wall installation

POAST – porcelain cityscape – wall installation

 

You can find more of her work in her Etsy shop, POAST, and on her blog.

Inspiring : Ruchika {ceramics}

 

ruchika - tile - two potted plants

ruchika – tile – two potted plants

 

Ceramicist Ruchika Madan learnt to say no the hard way, but it was one of the best realizations she ever had. “I was initially so eager for work, I found it very hard to refuse projects that I didn’t want to do, or wholesale production orders.

“Eventually I figured out that if I just worked on what I really wanted to, stayed true to my own pursuits and values, the work sold just as well or even better, and I was so much happier.

“I still don’t do much production or any wholesale and only take commissions that fall into my current way of working and style. I want to go into the studio excited to work, not dreading the slog through some tedious project.”

 

ruchika - leaves and vine mug

ruchika – leaves and vine mug

 

Ruchika’s career has taken a few twists and turns, but always the focus was on creating something. Originally studying metalsmithing, she changed focus to ceramics early on in her studies, and graduated from Maine College of Art in Portland. Wanting to work as a studio potter but stuck without a studio meant working as an assistant to another ceramicist (which she says was great for honing skills), while doing restaurant jobs on the side and textiles at home to support herself.

 

“I have always been a maker – it’s just what I have always done and in some ways, my career has just been a long continuation of the same person I was as that little kid.”

 

Over the past 20 years, she has split her time between teaching, making and exhibiting, and for the last 10, had her own retail studio space next to her friend and jeweller, Jade Moran in Somerville, MA. During that time, she also worked as product developer and designer for her family business, Achla Designs, a manufacturer of garden products. “At one point we had a ceramic line, which I worked to develop with a factory in Poland. It was a great experience to trouble-shoot and learn more about designing for specific production methods.”

 

ruchika - tile - two fish

ruchika – tile – two fish

 

ruchika - fish and waves plate

ruchika – fish and waves plate

 

With the arrival of her second child at the end of last year, Ruchika decided to close her retail space. Now she continues her work from home, with an office upstairs and a clay studio in the basement. “I have plenty of space and my garden right outside.”

It’s her garden and what happens in it that provides much of the inspiration for her work – birds, worms, baby carrots and fresh sprouts all make their way onto her platters and tiles. Strong clean forms come through, with plenty of emphasis on line and texture. “I love to work in series, creating a body of work with images that come from a theme, or recurring preoccupation I have.”

“Most of my work is made from white stoneware and porcelain clay using a variety of forming techniques, including wheel-throwing, slab-building and slip-casting.  The surface is created by incising and carving, and brushing, stenciling, and trailing slip. The glaze and underglaze materials vary the line quality and colors. By applying the glazes to selected areas with a brush, some areas can be shiny, while others remain softly matte.”

 

ruchika - little oval dish - peapod

ruchika – little oval dish – peapod

 

ruchika - carrots

ruchika – carrots

 

“I think the hardest thing as an artist is having to just muddle along and make your own way. You have to have drive to become reasonably successful and/or financially solvent. You are a one-man-band – production, marketing, accounting, janitorial…

 

“Sometimes people have mentors, but I didn’t so much, and 20 years ago there were no fabulous tools like Etsy or Squarespace or mobile phone credit card readers that make tasks manageable, even easy.”

 

“Just learning to take photographs – (slides!) of your work was such a huge obstacle before you could even move on to the next thing. So I just buckled down and figured it out. Now it’s so much easier to hang a virtual shingle out and you’re open for business, and I’m happy to be able to take advantage. Outsourcing and hiring help is also possible once you are more established or have a bigger budget, but watching my parents in the family business doing it all and building up to the successful business they have today, taught me what could be achieved on your own.”

 

ruchika - box tile - nestbuilders

ruchika – box tile – nestbuilders

 

Throwing children into the mix was a hard adjustment. “Being a studio artist is a solitary life – I mean mentally more, but physically too. I spent so many hours working full-time alone in my studio for many years before kids came along. It was hard to adjust and I go crazy when I can’t carve out any time for that. I resort to dead of night when everyone is in bed. I figure I’ll sleep when I’m dead! Right now with a 1 and 5 yr old is the biggest challenge. I often feel I am running on a hamster wheel.”

But of course the children are inspiring too. “It’s interesting to see what my 5 year old seems to have inherited genetically. He spends hours at our kitchen table, “his workshop” cutting things out with scissors and doing various projects. At my parents house, he has commandeered the shoe closet under the stairs as his “studio” and set it up with a tiny table and chair and suitcase full of supplies.”

They spend a lot of time as a family making art together. “My husband is an artist too and we draw a lot in our family – we have a giant sketchbook we work on together and really, we spend a lot more time doing art purely for fun. My inspiration has always come from my activities – my garden, my time in Maine etc., and the stories we read and animals we study, projects we do – all of it percolates into my studio work.” Ruchika also uses the time with children to focus on aspects other than studio work, like setting up her website and some other side projects in design, including fresh products for Achla, as well as patterns through Spoonflower. And of course, working in her garden.

 

ruchika's garden outside her studio

ruchika’s garden outside her studio

 

You can find more of Ruchika’s beautiful ceramics in her Etsy shop, ruchika.

 

Inspiring : karoArt {ceramics}

“Karolina Grudniewska discovered ceramics almost by accident. It all began one Christmas when she found two bags of clay under the Xmas Tree… and once she started playing with it she could not stop.” So begins karoArt’s introduction to her Etsy shop.

 

karoArt - fruit platter

karoArt – fruit platter

 

karoArt - tweet bowls

karoArt – tweet bowls

 

Karolina (Karo) moved from Poland to Ireland after a convoluted career path involving starting but not finishing a degree in Graphic Arts, and then completing a BA in English and teaching in Poland. She has now made her home in Dublin for more than a decade.

The bags of clay were given to her by her partner Jacek, who understood her need for a creative outlet after years of being a slave to the “job and school race”, teaching English and then moving to Ireland to work as a florist doing corporate arrangements. After going back to uni to study Interior Architecture, she set up her own freelance interior design business focusing on eco-friendly design solutions, but it still wasn’t enough. Colour, form and texture needed to have a more immediate and practical focus in her life, and discovering clay was an epiphany. Clay was the tactile, blank canvas for all the whimsy and and colour that was inside her.

 

karoArt - spiral platter

karoArt – spiral platter

 

Cat bowls feature fish and mice, fruit bowls come with bird tracks and  soap dishes are in the shape of clouds. She includes the curious and fun – handmade buttons, ornaments and tiles, as well as practical plates and cups. All her work is handformed and decorated with simple repetitive motifs, resulting in pieces that are wonderfully tactile and yet still have a lightness about them with their delicate decoration.

 

karoArt - cloud soap dish

karoArt – cloud soap dish

 

karoArt - bicycle plate

karoArt – bicycle plate

 

“I find working with clay very intuitive. Once you get the basics, there’s a world of possibilities in front of you. It takes hours and hours of practice, with many trials and many failures, but each broken piece teaches you a lesson. Practice and repetition brought me to proficiency, but I feel like I’m learning a new thing almost every day, and there’s still so much I’d like to discover and learn.”

 

Karo's studio

Karo’s studio

 

You can find more of Karo’s ceramics in her Etsy shop, karoArt.

 

Inspiring : INAE {Laura Hewitt ceramics}

Laura Hewitt started her career in arts as a sculptor in mixed media. When people asked her about her work, she said she often heard herself answer, “Well, it’s not anything, exactly.” And thus, It’s Not Anything Exactly {INAE} Enterprises was born.

 

INAE  - river frontage mugs

INAE – river frontage mugs

 

Laura’s ceramics are an otherworldly hybrid of organic and machine, mysterious and tactile. Textures like moonscapes combine with teeth, bolts and mystical and mathematical symbols to create work that is reminiscent equally of HR Giger and Shaun Tan.

 

INAE - biomech stoneware bowl

INAE – biomech stoneware bowl

 

This is her full-time job now after first starting on this path in 1984 (“at last, at last!”). Initially studying ceramics and drawing and then receiving an MFA in interdisciplinary studies, Laura went on to teach metalsmithing and drawing at Fairbanks University, Alaska, and has had her work in over 200 exhibitions. Talk about a long haul!

It really started even much earlier than that, and Laura is grateful for her gradeschool teachers when she was younger.  “I got to spend time out in the hall alone working on my own projects or asked to create the classroom bulletin boards, sometimes extra art assignments.  I was very fortunate to have them.  They made me feel my creativity was special and valuable.”

 

INAE - industrial wedding cake teapot and teacups

INAE – industrial wedding cake teapot and teacups

 

Her work now is profoundly inspired by the “dichotomies and juxtapositions” of the Alaskan landscape, and she finds “more inspiration comes from outside the studio than in it. I’m particularly interested in exploring the intersections between technology and nature, art and craft, destruction and creation.”  Thrown into the mix of inspiration are many writers and philosophers too; “Mostly scifi and surreal decadent fiction writers and French post structuralist philosophers.”

 

INAE - Ohms AC Law bowls

INAE – Ohms AC Law bowls

 

Laura is full of dichotomies herself; after spending many years as a teacher and facing up to classes every day, her answer to the question “If I gave you a cardboard box, a marker pen and a sharp knife, what would you do/make with them?”, her answer was “Cut two holes in it, draw a smiley face on the outside and put it over my head.  Instant social skills.”

 

INAE - two typewriter bowls

INAE – two typewriter bowls

 

She describes her studio in rural Alaska as a beautiful work in progress, “It changes a lot but right now it’s white, minimalistic, overly organized, everything in it’s place but with windows overlooking the most incredible landscape on the planet.”

 

Laura has two favourite pieces of advice.

” “Don’t let anything stop you”[from being creative]. These words were said to me by someone much older who had let all sorts of things get in their way so it really meant something.  I think I was maybe 7 or 8 but I knew it was an adult conversation, an Adult Moment.  I’ll never forget it; I feel like I was shot in the heart with those words.”

 

View from Laura's window

The view from Laura’s window

And the second?

” “If you aren’t making mistakes, you aren’t trying hard enough”.  That was said by Dr. Steve Kurtz of Critical Art Ensemble who I was very fortunate to have as an instructor in grad school.  I didn’t like hearing it at the time at all.  I just wanted to do a bunch of perfect little arty things, get good grades, get my degree and get out of school as simply and smoothly as possible.  He gave me a much needed kick at the time and it still holds true now when I find myself cranking out perfect little arty things and not going anywhere.”

 

You can find more of Laura’s work in her Etsy shop, inaeent, and on her own website, inaeent.com.

 

Get art into the world! : Pots on Wheels

You know I am absolutely passionate about getting art/craft/design out into the world. So when ceramicist Adero Willard (who I featured here) contacted me recently about this awesome Kickstarter she is involved in, I had to spread the word. It’s called Pots on Wheels, or POW! for short.

 

POW - Adero Willard - teapot

POW! founder – Adero Willard – teapot

 

Adero and six other ceramicists are fitting out a 17ft step-through van as a mobile ceramics gallery, displaying a diverse range of work from over 100 artists, including Molly Hatch and Ayumie Horie. The idea is to spread their passion for ceramics and share it those who may not have had the opportunity to touch potter’s clay before, or even know how a pot is made. Starting from the New England area of the US, they are driving around delivering workshops and hands-on education to communities, by visiting schools and community centres, and talking to people of all ages. “We believe that fine craft makes people happy. We want to share the joys of making with a larger audience. We’ll give hands-on workshops, and encourage new audiences, both young and old, to see, touch and experience well-made functional ceramics, made by a wide-range of contemporary artists.”

Besides the mobile gallery and workshops, the artists of POW! believe that the excitement generated through this project will spark new conversations, collaborations and outstanding new projects amongst  artists, communities and arts organisations.

 

POW - Kathy King - plate - 'any name here'

POW! founder – Kathy King – plate – ‘any name here’

 

With the Kickstarter program, there are some great rewards for people who pledge funds, including t-shirts, totally gorgeous original ceramics (shipped anywhere in the world), and even a visit to your location by Mark Shapiro and Sam Taylor, who will make pots and tell stories in front of your very eyes!! Sounds intriguing and very entertaining!

 

POW - Arthur Halvorsen - cups

POW! founder – Arthur Halvorsen – cups

 

It all sounds awesome, and I wish I could be there…

You can find POW!’s Kickstarter here. Get to it and support hands-on craft!

 

what you'll see at POW! - throwing a vessel

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