What’s also interesting about Ivy, is that in this day and age of Instagram, she has managed to put herself out there, not just her ceramics. Her personality is uplifting and inspiring. She engages with the maker community in a way that creates a story behind her ceramics, you’re not just buying a random handmade piece, but one with a personality. Here we learn more about Ivy and her creative process.
Tell us, how did you get into ceramics?
A few years ago I had gone through a bad break-up and was questioning what I wanted to do with my life. I was pretty confused on what direction to take, especially in terms of work. I felt lost. I started to teach myself as many different crafts as possible, like making quilts from vintage bandanas and doing some beadwork. For my birthday that year, my parents got me a 6-week wheel class at Choplet Studios – to both help me get out of my funk and to give me some more creative direction. I took the class and I was so bad. Like, so bad. It was such a challenge. But I could tell from the very beginning that it was for me – I had a purpose. I had to learn patience (I am very impatient by nature). I started spending all my free time there, it was the only place I wanted to be. When I was there working, I forgot about my anxiety. I didn’t feel sad, confused or stuck. In fact, I felt at peace and I also knew I had a lifetime of learning a craft ahead of me. I still feel this and I still can’t wait to get into the studio every day. Working with clay has completely transformed my life but also has completely transformed me personally, I think I’m a way better, kinder, patient person because of it, I am eternally grateful for that.
You have several collections in your work, palms, canyon, range, paper bags, pinch vases, what is your creative process like?
I wish it were as simple as “I’m inspired by X, therefore, I create Y” but I don’t have that linear brain like that. Every single piece I make comes from a different source of inspiration. And I rarely figure anything out first, except for my Open Palms, those I knew I had wanted to make even before I started working with clay. I had collected hand-shaped items for years. Every time I saw a little milk glass hand in a thrift store I had to have it. It became a thing. So when I started figuring out slab work and how to shape clay, the first item I wanted to make myself was a hand to hold sage and palo santo. And it was made by trial and error until I found the right shape. But things like the Range Vases, that happened so naturally, I can barely pinpoint when I started making them. They just evolved from the Canyon Collection which was inspired by a mind-altering trip out west where I was just so profoundly inspired and then came home and tried to mimic earth colors and textures and patterns with clay. Some people learn a craft fully and then start a business. Not me. I learn from making mistakes, from stumbling upon or learning a new way to mix clays and colors and designs, from gaining more craftsmanship. I’d say just the simple act of getting better, of gaining more wisdom in how clay works, is the single greatest creative process I have. I know it sounds so so obvious, but sometimes you forget to slow down and marvel at the journey towards mastering a craft. I’m trying to do that, just be present, take stock of what I’m learning as I learn it and find the creativity in that realm.
Once you mentioned you are an avid reader. What are you reading now, and how has reading inspired your work?
Reading is as important and necessary to me as creating. I always have to have a book in my bag, even if it means if I forget my book, then I have to buy a new one when I’m out for the day. I’m a fast reader, which is super helpful, but I also strive to find books that completely transport me (and are usually hundreds of pages long). Currently my “bag book” is a book about Tsar Nicholas II and the Romanov family, which I’ve always been obsessed with. I’ve also been listening to a podcast – I LOVE to listen to podcasts when I work in the studio – about Rasputin, so I’m deep, deep in that world. Before that, I re-read Fates and Furies which I can’t even say enough about. It altered me deeply as a person. I also always have a “home book” which is usually bigger and heavier that I read before bed. Right now it’s The Count of Monte Cristo, I’m about 3/4th of the way through that monolith and it’s just so fun. I think the fact that I get so lost in books is a powerful tool to unlock creativity. I’m not sure there’s a direct link between what I read and what I make but the act of discovery, of uncovering different worlds, characters, and eras, is so important to any creative brain. It’s like going to yoga, you’re stretching your creative brain and making it more limber and open to inspiration.
In an interview, you had said a group of women inspire you creatively. Can you talk a bit about this group of women and how you got involved?
Of course! I’m so very lucky to have my group of women friends. I met most of them doing craft fairs or through friends or studios. And what I love is that they all do such different work than mine. It’s important to me to have lots of influences and sources of inspiration and I definitely have that with the group. Susan Alexandra is a marvel, she creates the most colorful, fantastical jewelry and bags. Megan from Apprvl is masterful with shibori and hand dyes and the most perfect rope bags, and Alex from Burning From You Studio is an alchemist in the ways she mixes scents for her candles. I know so many amazing women creators but these three are my core – with each one of us starting out with our businesses around the same time, helping each other as we figure out the ins and outs of business and how to move forward, and continuing to support each other’s drive and passion. And clothes. Sometimes we honestly will just text about a pair of pants.
In terms of ceramicists who inspire me, my current and former studio mates have been the most help ever. We all give advice and share experiences with clay and glazes and the art world in general. I also had the privilege of sharing space at my last studio with Caitlin Rose Sweet and she is just one of the most creative and exciting clay artists out there right now and I’m constantly inspired by her work. I also love the work of Lucy Michel who is my West Coast doppelgänger and bff.
For some reason, I thought you were working in California. There is something about your style that is very West Coast… Your work is also carried in a lot of West Coast boutiques. But it turns out you only went to High School in Los Angeles and the rest of your life was in New York. What is your opinion on this whole East Coast/West Coast aesthetics?
I think there’s such a wonder to being inspired by where you are and where you live. But there’s also a magic to being inspired by where you want to be, even if temporarily. New York City is my home, even when I was living in LA it was home to me. I’m a city person, but the older I get I truly need to balance the urban life with nature. If I go a few months of just being in the city, I go insane. So when I get away to the west coast and get inside nature there, it blows my mind. I can’t even comprehend it’s on the same earth let alone on the same continent. Honestly, it excites me to no end, I feel like such a late bloomer about nature like I’m just now discovering how wild and wonderful it is. So when I travel out west I absorb as much as I possibly can – and carry all the inspiration back home with me where it translates into my work. I like to think of the pieces inspired by the west as my love letter to it. I also think I incorporate both East Coast and West Coast aesthetics into my craft – combining the earthiness of the west coast with its dramatic geography into a more east coast urban scale and sensibility: the mountains and canyon colors and textures of the west with the blues and ripples of the rivers in the east.
What does a typical day in your studio look like?
I’m a morning person so I try and get to the studio as early as possible. Which is never early enough since I also have important morning routines that include lots of coffee and sending and responding to emails. Then I work out a daily game plan in my mind or jot down a quick note on things I know I need to make, or quickly check what orders I need to package and send out. I am extremely lucky that I can walk to work, stopping along the way for another cup of coffee. Once I get to the studio I strap on my headphones, put on a podcast or music (podcast for making, music for glazing) and dive right in. I turn into a one-woman factory: I multi-task things and never stop moving. You might think it’s a very relaxed job, making ceramics. Nope! I almost never stop moving except towards the end of the day when I’m attaching handles to mugs or checking for quality control or glazing small pieces or allowing myself that wonderful luxury of just creating, experimenting with new ideas, colors, textures. Otherwise, it’s non-stop messy, dirty, dusty action.
What are you working on now?
Right now it’s a mixture of business, as usual, making and fulfilling orders – while working on a new collection that’s slowly evolving called the Canyon Piece Collection. I came up with the idea of using all the leftover clay from my Canyon Mugs and Planters, breaking it into smaller pieces and using them as inlay over a solid piece of clay. The work is time-consuming but SO worth it when I see what comes out of the kiln. I am also trying to streamline and be smarter and more productive in the way I work, looking towards the future in terms of growing my business. It can be really hard navigating the waters while you feel like there are never enough hours in the day to everything done – but amazingly everything does eventually get done and in the process, you’ve become stronger and better because of it. Oh, and I want to have more fun. Its been pretty nose to the grindstone lately and I need to infuse a little more fun into the work, but that will come, spring and summer always bring the fun.
All images courtesy of Ivy Weinglass.