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Playing With the Mud of the Earth: Q + A With Ashley Hardy

Posted on 03 December 2015

Ashley Hardy is a Portland-based ceramic artist and the lovely lady half of our Fall/Winter Lookbook. After exploring the city we joined her at her workspace at Radius Community Art Studio, and chatted a little about work and inspirations. You can see her work online here, and if you're in Portland you might be able to catch her at an event like the Radius Holiday Sale

How would you describe the medium you work in and type of work you do?
I work with clay. Pretty much the mud of the earth! I primarily use the pottery wheel and use porcelain and stoneware mix clays. Right now I am concentrating on functional pieces with a clean modern twist. There are also some conceptual pieces coming to fruition as we speak! I like using bold pops of color and matte glaze finishes.

What do you love about clay?
I think I have always loved working with my hands, clay allows me to use my hands. I get to see a mound of mud take form before my eyes. Seeing the shift and the process is really quite remarkable. I have always liked getting dirty too! This medium totally satisfies that.

How do you know when your work is "done"?
I have had a hard time knowing when something is complete. Most of the pieces I make have minimal elements to them, so it is a little easier to step back and know I am done. Sometimes when I am trying out a new idea I venture into overworking the piece on the wheel… that’s a big no no! Most of the time they collapse and I have to start over. At least I am starting to learn from that…

How did you get started on the path towards what you do currently?
I started taking ceramics in high school. I gave it a rest for many years, it wasn’t until about a year and half ago I became a lot more serious about making pieces. Practicing patience and care with the clay, I would say more recently things have started to pick up for me. I am feeling so grateful for the love and support towards my work. I cannot say thank you enough, I truly mean that.

Any creative heroes?
I am inspired by the artists Jan Svankmajer and Alberto Giacometti. I will forever love Frida Kahlo, she has my heart. Though my work is more clean lines, these artist have subtle influences.

Do you plan out and draft new ideas, or feel new things out in action?
I have this little journal book that I doodle out ideas in. A lot of the times I have ideas that I keep in my head. When I am working on an order, I have started taking these “brain breaks”, I will do a certain amount of items in the order, pause, work on an idea I have had in my head, and then go back to the order. I find this is actually super productive!

What do you love about your ceramics studio? 
It is a true community. I have been at Radius Community Art Studio for well over a year now. I love being there. The other artists working are so wonderful and supportive of each other. We can bounce ideas off one another, sympathize over an unfortunate glaze event, or ask each other for advice. I really couldn’t imagine being in another space.

Who would you be most excited to show your work (or studio) to?
Oh I would love to do some abstract pieces for a storefront display. I think that would be so much fun! Also, lately I have been thinking it would be so cool to have a piece in a big movie… like a mug/tumbler the main character drinks from… I don’t know if that’s ever even possible but a gal can dream right?

Do you have an ideal user for your work?
I just want someone to enjoy using my pieces, whether a mug it’s for their daily coffee or a little pot for their plant. Knowing that a piece goes off safe to warm home makes me happy. Someone who can appreciate the fact something is handmade.

What's something uncomfortable it has helped you learn, or something you're still hoping to learn?
I have definitely made a lot of mistakes, like saying yes to something I have never done before and having to learn the hard way. Clay is a super sensitive medium, there are so many steps in the process, at any point you could do something that can totally change the final out come for better or worse. I would say I am learning every day. I hope to take some ceramic workshops in the future. Every ceramicist has different techniques and tips, I am curious to learn from them.

Deep cleaning: every day, some days... never?
Clean every day! Since I work in a community space, cleaning up after myself is so important. It feels never ending at times. I have learned to sort of clean up as I go… saves a lot of time. I still manage to always come home with clay somewhere on me though.

Ashley is wearing the Fog Linen Daily Apron and Harrow Town Henley.

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