Returning to the Earth for Answers ⏤ In Interview With Alana Wilson and Romy Northover
During the Chinese tea ceremony, the tea master is known for the controlled precision in which she prepares and serves the tea to her guests. And yet, the taste of the tea leaves is yielded to her by the uncontrollable forces of nature’s hand. It is the same with clay. A ceramicist manipulates and moulds her piece of earth, but sometimes during firing or throwing an alternate form will persist, sometimes for the better. Try as we might, the earth knows that in order to control something, sometimes, it is best not to.
In November, the “beautiful teachers” of clay and tea could be experienced together at T, an exhibition of teabowls by Brooklyn based ceramicist Romy Northover and the Sydney based Alana Wilson. The pair were drawn to the tea bowl, an ancient form still used in present day, due to its duality of the primitive and the contemporary, a duality present in each of their practices. The tea bowls made from clay and glass can be held, drunk from and purchased, at New York’s Floating Mountain, a modern tea bar that pays homage to the ancient ritual and meditative act of the tea ceremony.
After T’s opening night at Floating Mountain, where traditional tea ceremonies were performed using Northover and Wilson’s vessels, we sat down with them to hear about how their T was concocted.
Photography by Doan Ly
Photography DOAN LY
Tea Ceremony lead by Katherine Aplin at Floating Mountain photography by Alana Wilson
Artist to artist:
Helena Sultan’s work sends a message to connect to the present. As with her company’s name, Konekt, the pieces themselves, titled Pause, are a beautiful and simple reminder to do just that.
There is a conversation between these materials—the shiny and the matte, the warm and the cold. This complementary opposition displays a true understanding of balance.
Authenticity is what separates these pieces:
It’s clear Helena’s designs come from the heart and soul, and that really reads on a subliminal level.
Cobalt, a precious pigment, is historically used in iconography, while rusty red imbues more of a wabi-sabi philosophy. I’m drawn to the tension this unexpected pairing of the chairs and background explores.
The Pause pieces are bold, contoured, tactile and considered.
The No. x Rikumo tea bowl collaboration launched this Autumn. These exclusive designs are available through RIKUMO Japanese homeware store in Philadelphia. Two bowls are part of this collection 'Kotton' a white open lipped tea bowl and 'Mokutan' a black high sided bowl.
It Breaks Open Like A Universe: A Conversation And Studio Tour With Rikumo
The word "chawan" is not a word you hear every day, but then again a chawan is not a common object. Elegant and marked by human craftsmanship, a chawan is a ceramic tea bowl that plays an essential role in the Japanese tea ceremony. A chawan requires a steady hand, a passion for the ritual of tea preparation, and a place of prominence in the household. At once poetic and functional, it is among the most beautiful of the useful objects. Romy Northover knows this first-hand: as the ceramic artist behind the design house No., she has become known for her organic, primitive vessels. Fueled by an interest in the raw character of clay and a fascination with open spaces, No. pieces examine the composition of vessel forms, exploring both the presence and the emptiness represented in a simple bowl. Indeed, No.’s portfolio reads like a love letter to the humble vessel: she has created golden crushed cups for Alex Eagle, a dark void-like bowl for The Line, and a towering vase for Calvin Klein. But it is the chawan that continues to fascinate her, and it is the chawan which has become the subject of our exclusive No. for Rikumo collaboration.
On a sunny Monday morning, we meet Northover in her studio in Red Hook, Brooklyn. She gives us a tour of her space and glazes a batch of freshly dried Mokutan bowls as we chat about her background and artistic process. Afterwards, as we take in the fresh air by the studio terrace, we talk about tea, the importance of flexibility as an artist, and the beauty of open spaces. As our conversation unfolds, a crucial truth emerges: in Northover’s work, it is impossible to separate craft from philosophy. Like an empty tea bowl waiting to be filled, they encompass the fruits of an impressive oeuvre and the anticipation of further paths to be explored.
Interview by Magali Roman
To read the full conversation click HERE
Is that the reason why you tend to do bowls and vases as opposed to the usual ceramic pieces like tableware?
I think the tea bowl for me is particularly strong for it having such a strong sense of history. Once you involve the tea, it breaks open like a universe. You can keep on working with it and never find an end point. For me, that has a much deeper sense of purpose and interest for me than straightforward tableware. That’s not to take anything away from [tableware], it’s just that the tea bowl has a symbolic and historical reference that I find fascinating.
The white was chosen to emphasize this idea of lightness, of elevation, of white cotton, airiness of summer. But also within that, you can really see the green of the tea. [The glaze] is almost like a vehicle for examining tea. Same with the black bowl- when you have a dark background, it’s actually really interesting what that does to the color of the tea. It can really intensify that green until it becomes more luminous, whereas the white one you tend to see more of the earthy tones of the tea. You get the brightness with the dark and the earthiness with the white. It’s a part of the process of tea, of experiencing it, of taking your time with it. It doesn’t mean that you can’t use one bowl out of season. It’s a cyclical feeling: you have the cycle of the seasons, the circle of the bowl, the cycle of your digestion… all of these movements that are meridian as opposed to linear processes.
The potential to hold new things.
For me, it’s philosophical. It’s how you experience existence and life.
No. donated a bowl made especially for the Philip Johnson Glasshouse Auction. The piece was a warm stone grey with a white horizon line, influenced by the idea of the 360 degree views from the glasshouse
Romy Northover, an English potter who lives and works in Brooklyn under the label No., experiments with similar inspirations. She categorizes the look of her humble whitewashed pieces as “ancient future”: pinch pot-esque tea bowls and plump ruddy flower vases drizzled in layers of messy milky glaze. To achieve her naïve yet refined aesthetic, she plays tricks on herself: “The Japanese tea bowls I made most recently were looking too straight and perfect, so I spun my wheel in the opposite direction than I’m used to, to throw off the muscle memory in my hands. I had less control which renders these great offbeat shapes.”
By ALEXA BRAZILIAN MAY 12, 2017
READ FULL ARTICLE HERE
Video made for XXXX magazine re-edit of an old chanel advert from You Tube featuring Catherine Deneuve