We interviewed Ayumi Nojiri, a New York-based ceramic artist who participated in the handmade POP-UP event sponsored by niji. We asked her about her brand, works, and future plans.
Q/ You crafted many handmade pieces with gentle curves. Please first tell us a little about your brand.
I make ceramic tableware and flower vases. I like white-color ceramics, so most of my works are coated with a white glaze. More recently, I have created more pieces with pale green patterns on a white background as well as black pieces. Because ceramics can be easily customized by selecting combinations of various clays and glazes, we can generate handmade ceramics based on our inspiration. I also create pieces in a variety of colors and shapes according to my customers’ requests.
My works are mainly sold at flower shops and artwork stores in and around New York City. I also receive custom orders for tableware from restaurants. My designs have been well received by my customers as they go well with food and flowers. My works are also sold on a consignment basis through ceramics shops and events. The mugs are especially popular these days.
Q/ What made you start creating ceramics?
I’m originally from Osaka, Japan, and grew up watching my parents who had worked in the fashion industry. I loved sewing, crafting, and cooking even in my childhood. Retrospectively, I think my parents with creative jobs had significant influences on my artistic interests. No matter what, I really loved crafting handmade items.
After graduating from a university in Japan, I worked at an advertising firm for about a year. However, my health gradually deteriorated in trying to manage the intense workload; I eventually had to quit the job. While thinking about my future career and life, I was inspired by my mother, who worked globally as a fashion designer. Eventually, I decided to move to the United States. I did not have a detailed plan on what to do after coming to the United States, but I wanted to see overseas and test my abilities. I chose New York as my destination, as it is a city with many artists. I was 24 years old at the time.
One day, a while after I came to New York, an idea to make some ceramics suddenly emerged. I decided to attend the local ceramics classes in New York run by a Japanese owner. There was no particular reason or plan for this either; it just came to me one day. It was a pretty similar situation in which people think, “Maybe I should start going to the gym.” In those classes, I learned about ceramics from scratch. I had no knowledge and experience of ceramics whatsoever until then.
A few years after I started joining the classes, the owner asked me if I was interested in becoming an instructor for the same classes. I accepted the offer and started teaching. I had been teaching for about three or four years, but due to the pandemic, the class operations were temporarily suspended. On top, my two daughters were young back then. Those conditions made me put my teaching job on hold. However, I continued my crafting activities while my children were asleep or when they were at school.
Meanwhile, through my friends and personal network, I started to get several offers to sell my ceramic pieces to flower shops and restaurants or on consignment. There was a time when I was proactively marketing my products myself, but thanks to everyone’s support, I was able to rapidly develop a sales network.
Q/There are many different types of art, but why did you choose ceramics? Tell us what is the unique nature of ceramics that has attracted you.
The great thing about ceramics is that everyone from children to adults can enjoy making pieces. Ceramics are enjoyed all over the world, regardless of country or culture. It is very attractive that we can freely create ceramics with our own hands from soft clay and we can use our works in our daily lives. While teaching the ceramic classes, I loved seeing students of various ages and levels have a lot of fun making their handmade pieces.
Since I have two young daughters, it can be difficult to work as an artist while raising children. But recently, my daughters have expressed interest in making ceramics. We sometimes make some pieces together. Every time I see my daughters passionately working on their creations, I feel like I have returned to my early years as an artist and experienced the joy of ceramics all over again.
There are many steps involved in making ceramics, and it takes time and effort to complete a single piece. Just because you put in a lot of time and effort doesn’t mean you’ll end up with a wonderful piece. Many works just do not meet my initial expectations. However, if it is before firing, pieces are recyclable so we can recreate something new from scratch. Ceramics is an art field with a lot of freedom. I am noticing that more and more young generations in the United States are becoming interested in ceramics.
Q/ How did you come across the “Japanese Artist Pop-up Shop?” What was it like joining the event, and what do you find appealing about it from an artist’s perspective?
I met the organizer of the Japanese Artist Pop-up Shop at one event; that’s how I was invited to the pop-up shop. Although I have participated in many events, I got the impression that the Japanese Artist Pop-up Shop was exceptionally well taken care of by the organizer. Since every detail was carefully planned, I was able to participate smoothly with peace of mind as an artist. I recommend other artists consider joining the event too.
I also liked the fact that the event was held in the East Village, Manhattan. My works are not particularly inspired by Japanese culture, but the area has many Japanese restaurants and is always busy with local New Yorkers who are interested in Japanese culture. During the event, I received many questions from customers regarding my work. Some American customers had knowledge of traditional Japanese porcelain, such as Arita ware, and I was able to feel firsthand that Japanese culture is widely loved in the United States.
Q/ What is your outlook for the future?
I have a plan to teach ceramics classes at an art studio, which is scheduled to open in 2024. While I like making pieces myself, I also want people to know the joy of making ceramics. Thus, I am really looking forward to teaching the classes. Also, because the owner of the new studio has a Korean heritage, it would be great if we could mix the best parts of Korean and Japanese ceramics to create new, unique pieces.
Additionally, I plan to arrange more collaborations with tattoo artists. My husband also owns an art brand and designs and sells products by working together with various artists. Through the process, I have developed friendships with tattoo artists. Those artists once added tattoo-themed illustrations to my ceramic pieces and we sold them as a joint work. I would like to organize more of those collaborative projects in the future. Through their tattoo illustrations, we may be able to craft works with more Japanese tastes.