Andrea Roman’s work, raw yet serene, finds its inspiration in the natural elements; dirt, rocks, and sand. They pay homage to pottery’s earthly origins. The quiet minimalist shapes, perfect cylindrical mugs, and vases are balanced by just a touch glaze as to leave the raw materials bare so we never forget what they are made of, therefore, always connected to the natural elements. This natural theme has run throughout her life as even in her youth she made lamps from rocks, jewelry from plants and shoes from wood and fabric.
Originally from Mexico, Roman works from a shared studio called Turning Earth in East London. She studied Product Design at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, where she learned about ceramics on a production level through slip cast (creating ceramics using a mold to create multiple, identical objects). Finding the limitations of slip cast molds and the impersonal nature of mass production, she went on to learn pottery on the wheel. And that’s where she is today; making pottery with a more meaningful story than ceramics that have been mass produced. In our interview, Ms. Roman discusses why handmade pottery is more meaningful and why she left Industrial Design.
GLAZE: Tell us how you got into ceramics…
ANDREA ROMAN: During my Product design formation I had access to wood, metal, plastics, and ceramic workshops, I tried them all and the ones I most enjoyed were the wood and ceramic ones. I guess it is because of the proximity of the material to nature. Emma Vazquez, my tutor from the ceramic workshop is a really passionate ceramicist who managed to share with me her obsession with the material.
G: You studied product design and slip cast production, how does this affect your handmade pottery?
AR: I guess that having studied the industrial side of ceramics gave me a good understanding of how ceramic materials work, from the very basic ones like types of clay, drying times, and the more technical like firing techniques, glaze making, mould making, slip making… being able to translate ideas into finished products that I could then use on a relatively short period of time made me an addict to ceramics. Being able to change the finishing touches of a series of my ‘identical’ finished pieces like glazes and textures opened a whole world of possibilities that made me want to dive deeper in. But something that always bothered me was the restriction the mould itself has; you build a model which take a good deal of time to make, you then make your moulds and you end up with a shape that you have to commit with. I saw the wheel as a possibility to interact with every single piece more freely.
G: What was the thing made you decide to pursue ceramics as a career?
AR: Well, I think I’m a maker of things by nature since I was a kid I was always making stuff, lamps from rocks, jewelry from plants, shoes from wood and fabric… My mom was really into the DIY movement, living on a budget and making the most of what we had around. In a way, I was used to building myself the things I wanted to have. Ceramics are a very simple way of making things and the outcome is a real-life finished product that can last forever, from an industrial production perspective, ceramics offered me the most immediate result, the possibility of materializing my ideas in a short period of time. That on one hand, and on the other one, clay offered me the possibility of working with a really tactile material that allowed me to learn from it in a very direct way.
G: How are handmade ceramics “meaningful?”
AR: I guess when I say handmade ceramics are more meaningful its because each single piece has been handmade by a someone, and with the internet, Instagram and social media, in some cases, you can actually connect with this someone, know about their thoughts, inspirations, background, talk to them… this is a connection that is lost when you go and buy a cup from the supermarket or Ikea. There is a trackable story behind each handmade object, I like to know the stories behind the things I choose to be surrounded by, read their singularity when I look at them, it’s not another cup, its one made by Ned, or Grace, or Kin… Living on this era of mass consumption and disposal it is easy to forget that there are people behind things and I find it much more meaningful to connect in a more direct way with them, knowing you are supporting the community around you.
G: Mexico has a strong pottery culture, do you find inspiration from this in your own work?
AR: Yes! I love Mexican traditional pottery, burnished barro negro, wood-fired terracotta comales, water containers, the prehispanic figurines, their textures, and shapes have always amazed me. I like to highlight the clay bodies I use on my work, leaving most of the surface of my pieces unglazed, I like that they will get stained with time, the way each user will interact with them will give them a second finishing layer of their own just the same way as Mexican traditional pottery, I like to keep a very strong connection to the basic material, to the ground, the mud, the rocks, the soil… yum!
G: Describe your creative process, how do you come up with your collections?
AR: I see my process as a deep research of my own self, trying out different iterations of the same thing over time helps me discover certain aspects of my personality, things I like, things I dislike, things that make me wonder… There’s no written process or steps, just daily exploration.
G: What are you working on now?
AR: Ah! Don’t make me start! As crazy as it might sound I’m stocking up for winter time, coming up with new items for the ‘hibernating’ season, exploring new clay bodies and waiting anxiously for results! Finishing the accent pieces of a collaborative tableware project with Ned Davies and Gort Scott Architects for a housing project in Canada. Working on small batches of pieces for some of my favourite stockists: Botany Shop, The Future Kept, Toast and Momosan Shop. Making some dinner plates for the most exciting restaurant opening in Mayfair in Feb 2018, organising a series of ceramic workshops with Botany Shop, planning our first permanent exhibition/shop space for our collective Ceramics 274 opening this Autumn in Dalston… Aw! I should go back to work now!
G: How have you evolved as a potter?
AR: Mmm… now I’m able to translate all my empirical learnings into theories that then I can share with others, I’ve been teaching for a short period of time (8 months) but I’ve been finding it really compelling to put into words all the tiny details of movements, strength, position… there’s still a loooong way to go and I’m not near to being an expert in any level, but this is the first time I feel I have a real understanding of how clay behaves on the wheel.
G: What is the biggest lesson you learned from pottery?
AR: Practice makes the master.