For our Maker Journal this month, we're in conversation with Julija Pustovrh. Julija lives and works in Edinburgh, Scotland. Emma, founder of Objects & Finds asked Julija about her journey into ceramics and the importance of materials research within her creative development - her use of found sands from remote Scottish beaches and the use of wild clays within her work.
Julija draws inspiration from nature, and in this interview Julija discuss's how this informs the structures and patterns of her work. Julija talks about her process and the importance of spontaneity and letting the natural movement of the clay influence her organic forms - creating one of a kind vessels. Julija's pieces are tactile ceramics to collect - placed together her vessels become sculptural forms. The palette of natural earthy tones derived from the colours of the clay define her style. The ceramics are matt and unglazed allowing the unique texture of the sand and the colour patterns of the clay to dominate. Julija's ceramics are thoughtfully and slowly crafted, with her unique mixture of materials reflecting the contours and rhythms of the landscape - each piece unique.
Julija's ethos is to make sustainable, slow living ceramic pieces that capture the essence of nature and to bring this intrinsic quality into the home.
Tell us about you, your experience and your journey into ceramics.
I “met” clay quite early in my life. Coming from an artistic family, I kept stumbling upon it. It was one of my favourite materials to express myself in, but I never thought of it as a viable career option. Instead, I took a path to become a Landscape Architect as it connected my love for nature, design and making. After finishing my MSc at Edinburgh College of Art I took a what was meant to be a short few months break and started playing with clay at home. This was in 2014 and I have never looked back.
What’s the ethos behind the brand?
Endeavouring to make sustainable and slow living ceramic pieces that capture the essence of nature and bring it into your homes.
How did your ceramics emerge? What was the key starting point?
After my experimental phase in 2014, I decided to take a leap of faith and follow my passion. First few steps we could say were a classical example of “starving artist”. I learned about the clay, different processes and firing on my own and after joining the then emerging Edinburgh Ceramics Workshop in 2017 I had learned so much from the technicians there, until I was invited to be the technician myself! Now in my own established studio practice (since 2020) I feel humbled and grateful for the learning curves, eye opening experiences and the amazing support I got along the way.
What draws you in in terms of aesthetics? Who or what inspires you?
My expression is a mix of organic shapes and structural, textured materials. I have recently been working on Sandscape Collection, where I use clay and personally collected sand in a material mix that is unpredictable and evolving. This makes every single piece I make entirely unique. The fact that structures emerge in nature that are similar and yet each individual is entirely unique is perhaps the greatest source of inspiration right now. That and landscape – I love beaches (that is where the sand I use is from) and I enjoy exploring surfaces and finding oddities and anomalies. I guess it won’t surprise you too much to find out that I pick up shells and rocks as well on my wanderings, which serve as particular ideas.
To what extent does your materials research in particular your use of wild sands and wild clays inform your work?
Clay is a natural material, we walk on it every day. If you go for a walk in the woods, along a stream or river or the coast you will inevitably find clay. The idea that you can enjoy the nature and take a piece of it home and make something from it that you can then use is fascinating to me. A sense of memory of a place, the sounds, the smells and the emotions captured in a piece or art or a piece that you use daily. I am working slowly towards using only natural found materials from my surroundings. This takes time, a lot of research and testing. There are books and a lot of resources on wild materials, but these are general guidelines, each piece of soil, sand, rock, clay is different and in the end it comes down to testing your materials.
What’s your process that leads to your shapes and forms?
My forms are quite organic when it comes to decorative work, I like spontaneity and embracing the natural movement of the clay that I work with. Round and curvy shapes come natural to me the most and I try to embrace that. When making tableware I still like to keep some remnants of that whilst thinking about the use and functionality of the pieces. I like my pieces to be comfortable in your hands and to have a sense of flow in the curves and shapes.
What brand, artist or maker inspires you, who would it be and why?
I take inspiration mainly from nature, especially the coastal areas. I have been always drawn to the sea, the ever changing seascape, how it changes with the tide and the reflections and casting shadows create by the path of the sun, the contrasting calmness and unstoppable brutality of the weather. Finding textures and materials that I use in my work is key to my making processes and ideas. Recently I find inspiration also from renovation and reclamation projects, derelict man-made structures, revealing the old and embracing it in the new form or purpose.
What’s a typical day in the studio?
My day usually starts around 10am at home in my wee office corner. Warming up with a cup of coffee and slowly munching on my bowl of granola while I do my emails, other admin or research. Then I pack my lunch and some healthy snacks or fruits if I know I will have a long day in the studio. I take a nice short walk through the Holyrood park to my studio where I catch up with my studio buddy Borja and make my plans for the day. The great thing about ceramics is that there are different making stages so some days I might be preparing or recycling clay, throwing, turning, handling, glazing, loading and unloading the kiln or packing orders. It is never boring and that’s what I love. Most days I work until 7pm, but sometimes when I am super busy I stay in the studio until very late in the night, secretly I love these nights the most as I am alone in the studio, it is quite therapeutic for me.
What’s the best thing about your job?
Playing with clay every day, being able to explore and learn about this wonderful material, working for myself and moving at my own pace.
What’s your idea of the perfect staycation in the UK, where would you go?
Waking up next to the clear turquoise see somewhere in the outer Hebrides, exploring the coastal areas and taking long walks.