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Article: Artist Series: From Tree to Sea Ceramics

Artist Series: From Tree to Sea Ceramics

Artist Series: From Tree to Sea Ceramics

Meet our Featured Artist for November, Lauren of @fromtreetosea— ceramicist and former wildlife biologist from Ontario based in Alberta. Lauren now works through Nvrlnd. an artist run collective in Inglewood. We chat about her process as an artist as she's rocking our signature Oat Milk Utility Suit.

Tell us a little about your creative process as a ceramist? As a full-time ceramic artist, my practice involves a lot of repetitive action, a cycle of steps that I repeat over and over again. I throw, trim, attach handles, paint, bisque, glaze, fire the kiln, photograph, sell & then package and ship the work. I’ve been trying to make sure I take the time necessary to appreciate the work that goes into each piece, between steps. In each batch of work I reserve space for a few experimental pieces - sometimes they don’t make it to the internet but it’s more about giving myself the space to play in between the repetition.

The throwing and trimming steps are my favorite as they can be quite meditative - at this point I can usually let my hands take control and let my mind imagine what can be made next. It’s a weird but beautiful space in-between daydreaming and physically being very present!

Every once in a while I’ll open a kiln and it’ll feel like the first time again - the magic of turning earth into a physical, functional piece of art that is perfectly imperfect. And, when things don’t go as planned, you learn to appreciate just how much ceramics teaches you about letting go.
Are you self taught or have you been behind the pottery wheel for a while? I consider myself primarily self taught! As a kid I was always making little figures and sculptures out of polymer clay, painting, drawing and beading, so the creative spirit has always been there.

I took my first 6-week pottery course in 2015, learning everything from building coil pots, to throwing on the wheel, to painting with cobalt. I was actually very intimidated by the wheel during this time, but was so in love with the medium that I bought some bags of clay and taught myself more about hand-building in my small north Toronto apartment. I eventually found a studio space where I paid per hour to use the wheels and the kiln. Years later I’m happy to say I’m pretty comfy on the wheel :-)

One thing about ceramics is that you’ll never know it all, there’s always more to learn about / play with, and there’s usually no one *right* way to do something.

We can't help but notice your work has a range of pastels, whimsical patterns & funky shapes — what inspires you when you're throwing & glazing? I feel like this is such a common answer, but I’m most inspired by nature (landscapes, creatures, flora). Before my start in clay, I was a few years into my career as a wildlife biologist.

At times I’m inspired by friends, by clothing, by something I see walking around my neighborhood or on a hike. Sometimes ideas come to me as a vision of a fully formed piece I then try to bring to life, sometimes it’s a very vague concept that I have to create multiple times through trial and error. I think it’s important to have time to be “bored”, to let your imagination run - I’ve realized that the further we get into the pandemic. There’s a phrase that has been on my mind a lot lately (I first heard it at a yoga class years ago): “what gets loud when you get quiet?”

There are days when I let my hands just take over and allow the clay becomes what it wants to. At the end of the day, I really just want to make things that make feel people happy when they look at them or hold them, things that folks feel a special connection to.
How do you find a balance between the workload of running a business and your own creative expression as an artist? What a great question! I think I’m still working on this, to be totally honest. 2021 marks my second year of running my business full-time (it ended up being a strange time to start, in 2020). It’s easy to lose a bit of passion for your art when financial stability becomes a factor. I felt myself starting to burn out and lose excitement for coming to the studio earlier this year and realized I needed to give myself time to explore rather than keep going with the production pace I had become accustomed to. I challenged myself to put on my first solo show this summer, and took ~ a month to let myself create something different from my usual work, and expand on some ideas that had been floating around for a while. I don’t think it came out exactly as I imagined, but it was beautiful in it’s own way, paying tribute to my Chinese-Jamaican roots in my own style. Challenging myself to do something new helped to re-ignite my excitement for ceramics!

And of course, there are the small ways in which you give yourself rest. Starting the mornings slow with long walks along the river or having a quick stretch. This year I tried my best not to work on weekends, and though I was in the studio some Sundays, having set those boundaries between my work and home life was key.
What's your favorite piece you've ever made and why? Hmm that’s a tough one… probably a tie between the work I made at the beginning of quarantine (clouds), my plant gal pals, and this large hand-built piece I made for my show this summer depicting flora & fauna of China & Jamaica.
What are you reading, listening to or watching right now that helps you unwind after a long day or find joy? I got into the habit of putting on Bossa nova jazz while working on admin stuff outside of the studio! It just puts me in a good mood, isn’t too distracting and makes me feel like I’m in a movie :-)

I’ve been enjoying listening to Katie Dalebout’s podcast “Let It Go” (I love hearing other artists talk about their practice), watching true crime documentaries, and editing videos for my YouTube channel. I’ve also been cooking more and more, as the season transitions to slow cold weather, making lots of soups and baking treats in the eevenings.

Enter here for your chance to win a dreamy Cloud Ceramic Tumbler by @fromtreetosea & your own Noble Utility Suit — be sure to enter before Sunday 11/21 @ midnight PST.

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