Couple months back, Demetria invited me to her studio and I brought along our photographer, Mary Newman, to shoot Demetria in action. Photos and our designer chat below.
Hi Demetria, tell us how you got into making ceramics!
Hi! I’m Demetria. I grew up in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and graduated with a BFA in Acting from the University of Utah. My mother has a masters in ceramics and our house was full of pieces of hers and other artists. Always inspired by her, I discovered my own love for clay while taking elective ceramic courses during college. Once I moved to NYC, I worked for many years in marketing for beauty and fragrance brands, while I spent my free time with my hands in clay at a pottery in my neighborhood. Almost two years ago, I started my ceramics business. Now I get to focus my career on my passion while still doing creative work on the side for brands as a copywriter/consultant.
Where do you live and work now, and how does this environment inform your creative process?
I live on the waterfront in Red Hook about three blocks from my studio. I love it here near the water with views of the city and the stevedore cranes. I enjoy being immersed in the vibrancy of New York, yet living and working in this area of Brooklyn remains quieter, more reflective, still a little raw compared to areas even a few blocks away.
Can you elaborate on your particular design process? What is your workspace like? What materials do you prefer?
I work in several stoneware clay bodies and porcelain - each has a different texture, plasticity, color and lends to different working styles. I develop new pieces in various ways, through sketching, creating machetes or working freeform in the clay. Often there is something to puzzle out, an idea that spins in my head may take months to process out in the clay - from how it is formed, to the surface texture and design to the glaze finish. I really love that part of the process, the puzzle and the excitement of figuring it out.
One of my favorite surface techniques is called sgraffito, painting the clay with colored underglazes and etching through to the claybody to reveal a pattern. This is the technique I use in my Spirit Eye collection.
I often have several projects going at a time which usually means my workspace is in constant motion. My shelves ebb and flow with work in various stages of process, unfinished pieces wrapped in plastic to be completed or to slow the drying process, greenware (meaning unfired) awaiting glaze and the kiln, and recently fired work ready to be shipped out.
My studio space is in not-for-profit ceramic studio, Clayworks on Columbia, a shared pottery that offers ceramic classes, a gallery space and studio artist membership. It’s an amazing place and community where I have met so many incredible and inspiring artists over the years. I also teach the children’s clay program there, which has been an invaluable experience and source of inspiration. Plus the kids are super fun.
Who or what do you draw inspiration from?
I take in inspiration from so many things in the world around me, nature, astronomy, music, and ordinary objects. I’ve always loved texture and how creating dimension in the surface of the clay interacts with the form. I am also inspired by the deep south, the Gulf Coast and New York City. This dichotomy of organic and architectural elements influences my forms and textures. Walking around the city there is so much texture to take in, from the stunning architecture to the detritus on the street. At one point I started seeing eyes everywhere in shapes of stuff, and so they began to surface in my work.
Many pieces I create are for growing living things or holding flowers in the form of planters and vases, because I love to fill my surroundings with plant life. My parents have a landscape design business and growing up we always had fresh flowers in the house and the garden was lush and green.
Also, the children I teach blow me away with their boundless creativity and fearlessness.
How do you stay grounded and relaxed? What are your more personal pursuits and hobbies when given the time?
I love seeing live music, going to art galleries and just exploring this city. Pioneer Works art space here in Red Hook has amazing events and openings. If CHAPPO (my brother’s band) is playing in the city, you can probably find me dancing.
When it’s warmer I like running the waterfront for the exercise and clearing my head- I grew up a swimmer and even taught swimming/aquacise during college, but I’ve come to enjoy running over the past five years. I have a subscription to Yogaglo and recommend it highly - it’s access to tons of great teachers and has a stunning search/filter system. I like using their classes to get focused in the morning and for relieving shoulder kinks from working in the clay. You may not realize it, but ceramics is a pretty physical activity and can be strenuous on the body. I usually say ‘ceramics is my circuit trainer.’
What are some of your struggles/obstacles so far?
Leaving the studio at a decent time! I really love what I do, and spend a lot of time working, but it’s also important creatively and for so many other reasons to find a balance.
I’m also learning how grow and scale intrinsically. I make everything by hand myself and wear all the hats of my business. These past several months have proven to be my biggest production yet. I’ve had to figure out new working capacity, as well as things like retailer’s detailed shipping guidelines, plus how to balance everyday business needs like following up with accounts, website updates and photoshoots, while still finding time to play creatively in the studio in order to develop my collection and as a artist.
And lastly, what does being Young & Able mean to you?
It’s living fiercely and passionately, being driven, excited and ready to take on anything with a grounded energy and creative vision.