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American Made Series: Humble Ceramics

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Modern and rustic elements combine perfectly in the Humble Ceramics pottery line. Los Angeles based artist Delphine Lippens, owner and founder of the line, only recently discovered her passion and talent for ceramic design. Now, much of her time is spent in a beautiful communal studio, filled with talented people who all share a love of clay.

 Where is Humble Ceramics based? What is the work space like?

Humble Ceramics is based in Los Angeles, although my studio is at Xiem Clay Center in Pasadena, California. There we can inspire each other, share tips and support one-another–through challenges and successes. The studio itself is huge! It has tall ceilings and skylights which allow daylight to come in and illuminate our work in the most organic and wonderful way. The studio consists of the main work space (where all the wheels, hand-building tables, spray booth, glazing area, measuring table, slab roller, extruder and sinks are), the damp room (where the wet work aka green-ware has time to dry), and the kiln room. There is an outdoor space for sanding, a glaze preparation room, lockers, recycled clay and glaze area, and last but not least, a very cool retail store and gallery.

How long have you been working in ceramics, and when did you start Humble Ceramics?

A friend of mine had been looking into taking a pottery class and invited me to join her for a 6-week course. August 25, 2010 was the first day of my very first class. I had never sat down at a wheel or even seen one before, but after that I was hooked. A few months later, I started taking pictures of the work to show friends and family and decided to make a blog for fun. After 6 months, I participated in the studio’s bi-annual Ceramic Arts Fair and that’s how Humble Ceramics came about and was sheepishly introduced to the world.

It is important to say that I am not a ceramic artist, but rather, a creative person who uses clay as a way to express my designs. To become a true potter (in the traditional and respectful aspect of the word) and master of the craft takes years. Humble Ceramics has been made possible because of what a studio like Xiem is able to provide. To quote one of my mentors, Suzette Munnik (Xiem’s Education Director), “This studio provides high quality technical support which enables even a beginner to successfully produce a ceramic object or sculpture in a relatively short time, without having to master the intricacies of kiln firing and glaze chemistry


Please tell us a little about the kiln and how it works.

The studio has 6 kilns: 3 electrical and 3 gas. The 3 electric kilns are fired to 1800 degrees Fahrenheit and used for bisque firing. “Bisque” is clay that has been hardened through a first firing and has no glaze. Once green-ware (clay that is bone dry but not fired) has been fired that first time, no water or humidity is left in the clay. Then, there are 3 very large gas kilns (16, 18 and 30 cubic feet). These kilns are used for “glaze firing”. The studio uses Cone 10 down-draft reduction kilns. Because Cone 10 kilns fire at such high temperatures (+/- 2340 degrees Fahrenheit), pieces can sometimes change slightly in shape, and colors come out with unexpected and results, which makes for unique, one-of-a-kind finished product. The advantage of firing at Cone 10 is that the density of the work coming out is extremely solid and hard. The process for a glaze firing is quite long. At Xiem, the process takes about 10 to 12 hours for the kiln to reach its highest temperature and the cooling down process takes about 36 hours.

How would you describe your color palate?

My color palate is very peaceful. Texture is something that resonates well with me, so that is why I often leave parts of my pieces un-glazed. When I choose a glaze, I want to make sure it harmonizes yet does not overpower the texture or color of the clay and marries well with its shape. Just like cooking – it is a play of balance and proportions between the ingredients. The work of Humble Ceramics is not obvious; it is discreet and is not trying to compete for attention from its environment or other objects. My non-colors are very earthy and organic – from clears to whites, grays and blacks. Sometimes I use light blues. Humble Ceramics is about humble beauty and practicality – how it interacts with nature, light and its environment.

When not working with ceramics, what else do you enjoy doing?

You can usually find me painting, designing, blogging, writing, cooking, entertaining, creating, learning and living.  I could redesign the whole world if I had the chance. I also rent my home as a short-term vacation or executive rental; Between Brentwood Artist Farmhouse and Humble Ceramics, I am quite occupied.

You can see some more of Humble Ceramics on Delphine’s  blog at http://www.humbleceramics.com or at http://pinterest.com/AustereChic/ceramics-by-delphine/

Maeve Nicholson is harpist, fiber artist and a contributing editor at Martha Stewart Living. Follow her on Instagram.com @maeverz.


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