Noble Artist Series: Martina Thornhill

Meet self-taught ceramic artist Martina Thornhill. Based in Portland, Oregon— Martina focuses on small-batch ceramics like her coveted 'okay cup' as well as new retail space 'partly shop' opening soon. Today, we're catching up with her & Bird in her artist studio rocking their Noble threads.

Martina wearing our Charcoal Utility Suit & Bird wearing our Peanut Butter Waffle One Piece Sleeper.

As a self-taught ceramicist, how long did it take you to discover your personal artistic style? It definitely took a few years to feel like I had a cohesive vision, but I think developing your style through testing out all kinds of designs is a really important part of the process. I am constantly trying out new ideas and asking the important final questions of 1) does this fit my vision and 2) is this already being created by someone else? We experience such a constant deluge of images through social media that if developing a personal artistic style is important to you, I think you have to proactively work against subconscious influence. For me that looks like searching for inspiration from fields outside of ceramics, namely through fabrics, paintings, books, and nature. Trying to ignore trends and focusing instead on building upon my previous work.
Is there a piece from a past collection that is extra special to you— why?
I started making the emotional mugs a year or so after my first child was born. They felt like an encapsulation of the emotional rollercoaster that is becoming a parent. Just a wild combination of every emotion throughout every day that I'm now reliving again with this second child. Do you have a routine to help guide you when you know it's going to be a long day working in the studio? I always start a long studio day by making a list of all the things that I hope to get done and then a separate more realistic list of what I actually have time for. Having that all clearly laid out helps me stay on task and being able to tick things off as I go is a great visual marker of making progress with what are sometimes pretty monotonous tasks, like glazing 100 of the same cups. I remind myself to take breaks as I finish things off the lists, even if it's just stepping outside for a minute to drink a glass of water. Good podcasts never hurt either. With Spring here and Summer around the corner in the Pacific Northwest, what are your favorite ways to unplug and spend time solo & with your family? Solo I love to work in the garden or wander the nurseries searching for new plants. With my family we spend a lot of time at the river over the summer, cooking food on the grill, hanging out in the yard and biking around town. After what's always felt like a long grey winter I just want to be outside as much as possible. What've you been listening to or reading lately that has you feeling inspired? Since Bird was born I haven't had the mental energy for long books so I've been turning to more essays and short stories. Robin Wall Kimmerer's work never fails to bring me back to ground when I'm feeling overwhelmed by the state of the world. A friend shared with me her essay The Serviceberry: An Economy of Abundance and I reread it whenever I'm feeling low. I've also been reading The Beauty of Everyday Things by Soetsu Yanagi. It's a collection of essays and the one on Folk Craft really speaks to me. How beautiful utilitarian everyday objects can be an important source of joy and connection in our days. I can't think of a better goal for my work than that. 


Leave a comment

All comments are moderated before being published