BOTANISTRY and Ceramics
We were looking to create something special and fun to commemorate one year of BOTANISTRY. It had to tick certain boxes for us. It should represent our interest in heritage, nature, community and sustainability. It should be unique like our brand and wellness products. It should be functional – something our customers could use daily. Could there be an idea with BOTANISTRY and ceramics?
We finally decided on a ceramic bowl and spoon set – handmade and limited edition. Who doesn’t love a good bowl, right? Clay is a sustainable material, which can be reused and recycled. Like our BOTANISTRY Blends, a bowl can be easily used by the whole family, whether it is for morning porridge or cheesy pasta or some nice cream.
We collaborated with Auckland-based ceramic artist – Lily Weeds (@lil.ceramics) – in a creative process that took a few months. Lily designed the bespoke bowl with an organic and natural feel, just like our organic supplement powders. The design is a combination of a native clay finish and a custom forest green glaze in line with our brand colour. The bowl has a pourer style, which is unexpected and versatile. With the lip, you can pour out of it or rest the spoon on it or even carry it! It is elegantly embossed with the BOTANISTRY logo on the side. The final design was selected thanks to feedback from our Instagram community via an online survey. These images share behind-the-scenes of creating the bowl. Watch the making of the BOTANISTRY and ceramics collaboration bowl here.
Ceramic art is a fascinating space and Lily has been in it for almost eight years. Talking about her love of handmade ceramics, Lily says: “For me, it’s the humble organic shapes, the individual bumps and dips and personality that you get from something made with love and care.” We love her relaxed yet mindful approach to ceramics as well as to life. We spoke to the talented mum-of-three to learn more about the ups and downs of working with ceramics, the artistic process and her inspiration.
How did you become interested in ceramics?
I’ve been a maker my whole life – always tinkering away. I went to art school in my 20’s but didn’t really find my medium. I loved sculpture and creating in 3D, but I’ve got a practical sensibility where building things with no purpose didn’t really work for me. When I had my third child and had the opportunity to be a stay-at-home mum, I started attending ceramics classes once a week. I took him along in his push chair and hoped he’d sleep through the sessions!
My big break was when a friend of mine who owns an awesome restaurant gave me the opportunity to make the plates and coffee cups. This gave me the funds to buy my own kiln and pottery wheel so I could speed up the process and create as much as my heart wanted. When my son started school, I moved my studio out of my garage and into a shared space with other designers (clothing, handbags and jewellery), and started working on ceramics full time.
What is your design process with a new piece? Do you sketch shapes and colour schemes beforehand or is it more organic?
I’m not a sketcher. My version of sketching is in 3D with clay. I just start making and usually produce several versions of something, working through the practical requirements and limitations as I go. Usually by the third or fourth variation, I’ve got the shape refined and then I can use all the early variations to work on glaze and firing issues. If I’m working on bigger pieces, I will make smaller versions first.
Working with all natural materials has its challenges, what are some of the curve balls you face?
Where do I begin… Ceramics is not for the faint-hearted! I would like to say I have a thick skin, but I’m definitely still working on it! I’ve had entire kiln loads of work explode – that’s thousands of dollars worth of work and thousands of dollars worth of equipment destroyed. But every time something like this has happened, I’ve learnt so much. I certainly have less ‘disasters’ these days, but I still have pieces that I expect to look a certain way that come out completely different.
With ceramics nothing is certain, everything needs to be tested. Every clay behaves differently, every glaze behaves differently with every clay, and even after multiple tests there are so many things that can go wrong. I’ve had some pretty major disasters and I’m never 100% certain that things are going to work how I expect. In saying that, every time I open the kiln and it’s successful, it feels like Christmas!
Do you have any favourite items that you like to make?
The favourite things I’ve made lately are some wine cups using clay that I found at the beach where we go camping every Christmas. I really enjoyed the process of getting clay from a special place, processing it, and making cups that just felt right in my hands. It is a contrast to when I’m making commercial orders where I have to measure and check that each item is consistent and to the specifications. I made these cups for myself and didn’t measure or check as I went, so it felt smooth and rhythmic and they came out great.
Working with clay is a tactile and therapeutic process and in recent years, it has become a popular hobby. Do you have any tips for people looking to take up pottery?
Firstly I would say, expect failures to happen and learn from them. I knew a ceramics teacher that after a six-week course would get her students to choose their best piece and their worst piece (not knowing why) and they had to destroy them both. This was to teach them that lesson.
Also one shouldn’t think that you can only make good work on a pottery wheel. I really love the slower process of hand building. People often think that pinch pots and coiling etc are just for beginners and you should aim for wheel throwing. You can make great things with just your hands on your dining table.
I noticed that landscapes and seascapes have influenced some of your ceramic collections. Where do you draw inspiration from?
I live near the beach and get a lot of inspiration from what I see along the coast and in the forest near my home. It’s a balancing act between the visual, the practical and the tactile. You take inspiration from the beauty around you, but you have to translate that into a human setting, to be used in a home or restaurant. Moreover, it has to be durable and comfortable to use.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
Hahaha, I make pottery in my spare time! I have three busy kids, two dogs, one cat and four chickens who keep me pretty busy! And if I have any time spare after that, I love camping, paddle boarding and exploring. I also always have some DIY project on the go… At the moment, I’m converting a van to be a camping van with a bed and kitchen etc so we can explore more of New Zealand. I also love to cook so we entertain pretty often. We just got a wood-fire pizza oven so we’ve been having regular pizza parties with our neighbours.
You can now purchase a gift pack of the bespoke bowl and spoon set with three BOTANISTRY Blends of your choice for NZ$ 115 (actual retail value: NZ$145). To purchase the gift pack, kindly email firstname.lastname@example.org
Photo credits: Main image by Ting Xu & others taken by Lily Woods.