A Peek Into the Creative Mind of Natasha Alphonse
Here at GLDN, we understand the value in the work created by independent makers. The labor of love adds something very special to the craft, making each product a unique expression.
We got the chance to spend some time with a favorite maker of ours, ceramicist Natasha Alphonse. We spent a morning in her cozy studio in Seattle with her and her pup, as she told us a bit about her art, her goals, and her inspirations.
How did you find your path and passion in creating ceramics?
"I took my first wheel throwing class while I was going to school in Alberta, Canada. I was studying for a degree in drawing, doing lots of work in sculptural installation and exploring as many different ways of creating as I could. It was at the very end of my degree that I discovered a real love of making objects that could continue to be used and interacted with daily. I moved to Seattle shortly after graduating and continued to learn from a bunch of potters at centers like Pottery Northwest and Seward park. I shifted all my focus on learning how to use my hands. I feel like there is such a natural progression in the evolution of this craft. Each kiln opening offers new information on where I want to focus my attention, and it offers a chance to reflect on why some pieces are more successful than others. Slowly, the work is teaching me more about myself, and is becoming more cohesive as I understand what designs make me happy. This is what leads me to the next line of what I decide to make. "
What are some of the main sources of inspiration in your work?
"My main source of inspiration is the earth, and the quiet, grounded process clay makes you take. Living along the Pacific coast, I am constantly in awe of the land and all the life beneath the water. I am also inspired by good food, and sharing meals that bring people together. I love surrounding myself with beauty and objects that bring me joy, and bring a bit more thoughtfulness to what I do have. And last but not least, I have constant motivation from my pup Olives!"
Tell us a bit about your sidekick pup!
" Olives is my Blue Heeler pup! She is about one and a half years old right now. She goes with me everywhere. I grew up on a reservation in northern Saskatchewan. My family raised and ran dog teams, so I always had a ton of dogs around me. My tribe are the Dene people, and they have a long history of depending on dogs for lots of things. It comes naturally to me to keep a dog by my side, although Olives is mostly for entertainment and company in the studio - definitely not a working dog!"
We are in love with your studio space. It is like a peek into your creative mind. How do you feel this space contributes to your art?
"I love my small studio in the Sodo district of Seattle. Everything has been slowly built, as I need to problem solve for more efficient ways of organizing a small space. I really enjoy working in my studio, and have built it to harbor a cozy feeling so that I feel comfortable working for hours in there on my own. Luckily my personality is one that enjoys plenty of quiet solo time, so this studio as been a really great place for me to work. "
What are some of your favorite pieces to make? Do you have techniques that you favor?
"My favorite thing to make are bowls, especially really large serving bowls. I think I enjoy making those the most because I like to imagine all of the beautiful food that can be served in them. The curve of the inside of the bowl will dictate what kinds of food people will want to eat or serve out of them. I really enjoy spending the time to specifically shape them. I like to picture large dishes being part of a big meal, elevating the experience and making these kinds of gathering with friends and family just a little more special. Recently I have been really into the wood firing pieces as well."
Wood Fired pieces sound very interesting and standout among the other pottery. Can you tell us a bit about this process and what makes it so special?
"Wood Firing is done in a special kind of kiln where the fuel for heating the kiln is done through wood. Pieces are glazed very minimally, sometimes not at all, with the goal that the wood ash will be carried through the kiln and build up enough to start melting onto the ceramics, creating a glaze on its own. This is a type of atmospheric firing, meaning that whatever atmosphere you are creating within the kiln will dictate the surface of the clay. Each wood will even have different effects on color. The longer you fire the kiln, the more wood ash builds up on the pots. The amount of oxygen will also change the surfaces of the pieces. Starving the kiln of oxygen while wood is still burning inside the kiln can also yield unique results. The flame reaches from the front of the kiln through the back and out the chimney. This flame marks the pots, leaving flashes of oranges and deep reds. This type of firing is so exciting to me! The past firings have lasted up to 5 days, holding the kiln at around 2300 degrees f. It is a very labor intensive process, and to me, it feels like an active way of glazing pottery; collaborating with fire and the wood to create one of a kind pieces."
How has your creativity, your medium, and your work progressed as you continue this journey?
"My creativity has evolved in a way that kind of surprised me. This medium has so many stages where you can reflect upon and adjust your vision. It is a very slow pace of making, from throwing wet clay to leather hard carving, and then to the final stage of glazing. I enjoy how the clay teaches you to be ok with the slow pace and the moments in-between. It has taught me to be more patient and observant. As I look back on the work I have made so far, I can feel more confident in leaving the pots more minimal and simplified. With time and the progression of the process, a body of work begins to show itself. "
What are some areas of your craft you have yet to learn and explore?
"All areas are in constant exploration for me. I don't think I will ever reach a point where I feel like I have fully arrived to a specific ending point. I see older potters who are still so passionate in exploring the next idea they have. That is what I hope my life will always be like; a constant evolution in my craft."
Artist Featured - Natasha Alphonse
Photographer - Colin Jones
Interview and Creative Direction - Jordan Payne