THE NITTY-GRITTY ON HUMBLE CERAMICS
WORDS BY NICOLE FANI & DELPHINE LIPPENS
PHOTOGRAPHY BY GRACE YOON (WWW.GREYANDELLE.COM)
Have you ever made a purchase and felt an instant connection with the artist/designer behind the piece? This was my instant reaction when I first laid my eyes on the stunning ceramic works of Delphine Lippens, creator and artist behind Humble Ceramics. Her work spoke to me with such a talent for creating grounded and elegant pieces that could withstand the test of time, I knew this was for me. I purchased my first couple of dinner plates and from there I was hooked! Growing up with a father who founded a company that manufactures cookware, dinnerware, and houseware my love for all things ceramics is genetic and runs deep through my blood. When I had the pleasure of meeting with Delphine and speaking to her about the beginnings of her company, and the moments that lead to where she is now, I was utterly inspired! She is one of the most insightful and true individuals I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. It was a beautiful conversation where I found myself connecting on an even deeper level about life and how the universe always works on a scale, a balancing act. I truly believe that if you are lucky enough to have one or more of her stunning works in your home collection that you are graced with beauty and a piece you can pass down for generations to come! Delphine was so kind giving us a look inside of her studio space. I hope you enjoy this peek into where she creates such beauty with spirituality and love.
1. What was the inspiration behind creating your company? What motivated you?
I didn’t “create” a company … it created itself from the response to my work and trying to adapt to the demand. Making more pieces, needing more space, needing the help of a few elves because I just can’t do it all … so the growth has been and still is completely organic. As an artist, it is an incredible feeling to have strangers respond to your work in such a positive way. To have your work appreciated enough that someone would spend money on it is a huge privilege and definitely feeds that creativity.
2. When did you found Humble Ceramics? How did you come up with the company name?
Aug. 25, 2010 was the first day of a 6-week summer class I took with a friend. Then, I was looking to name a blog I created to show my dad overseas my latest adventure. I was looking for how clay made me feel, for a name that would be simple but resonated with me. So after playing around with a few combinations, “Humble Ceramics” just felt right!
3. What was the first piece you made? What was the inspiration behind it? How long did it take from conception to finished product, and what were the steps?
When I first learned to throw, you had to make a cylinder … then you opened it into a bowl or closed it into a vase … everyone was making bowls but somehow, my fingers wanted to go the other direction and most of my pieces became vases! The process can take weeks between the trimming, drying, sanding, bisquing, glazing, firing, etc … I sold or gave most of my work away, there is a fine line between collecting and hoarding, they became clutter to me and when I found people who resonated and fell in love with the pieces, I just let them go. I think they are still on the blog … they were my very very first posts … the blog was/is a fun way to document the evolution of my work and how my style evolved. And to be honest, this class was only 6 weeks and I had zero intention to do anymore. What’s that expression? “If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plan” ?
4. What is your design process? Does it change with every piece, or does it stay on the same path?
It is fairly simple in my head, but there is a big difference between imagining something, the physical reality and technical aspects of it, so I just stuck to what I could do. My work evolved out of my own limitations (and impatience) as a potter. Creating shapes that spoke to me within the limited techniques I had learned, but I could tell every piece was a potential prototype. I was just not good at recreating them again and again consistently.
5. How do your friends and family inspire you and your creative process?
My friends and family are extremely supportive and I am grateful for that everyday! Everyone is an artist of some kind and many are way more talented than I’ll ever be!
6. What are the most purchased of all your pieces?
It varies from season to season … every industry is drawn to different pieces so it about evens out. But the Stillness Collection has certainly become a Humble Ceramics classic.
Are they the simplest or hardest to produce?
Every piece has its own set of challenges … but the canisters are the most challenging because we have to fit a cork, and between the shrinkage, trimming, sanding and glazing all create such variations that the corks don’t always fit.
7. How do you choose your materials?
I like simple materials to harmonize with the environment … hence the simplicity. Stoneware, concrete, stone, cork, wood, leather, metal, glass, linen are all beautiful in their simplest forms … it’s not just about the clay, it’s how it interacts w/ the shape, color, size, other materials, and everything else around it.
8. What is your favorite piece to make?
I love doing the Dakini’s (though that is my own personal work and not under the Humble Ceramics Brand). I call it a Godlaboration because when I drop the piece from a certain height, I accept the shape that is given as a gift from above – hence – a “God-laboration” …
9. What is the meaning behind your work? What is the symbolic message you aspire to convey through your ceramic art pieces?
That simplicity is actually extremely complex. That it’s not just about the aesthetic but about the “experiencing” of the object as well. The work is meant as a meditation – every time you look at it, you touch it, you use it … it is supposed to ground you, calm you, bring you into the present, bring you a little peace and make you happy!
10. What is your favorite use for your oversized bowls?
Where to start? One bowl for fruits. One bowl for onions, garlic, shallots, avocados, tomatoes … Once bowl for family style dinners, especially great for larger dinner parties. One bowl for bath essentials (put a few stones at the bottom and keep your loofa, sponge, scrubbies, brushes and whatever you like to have by your bath tub). Some people use them for rolled hand towels. In the living room you can put games or beautiful objects in them. In a closet, keep your socks, or whatever you want in there … In an entrance, you can use them as a throw –it-all. Or just use it as a beautiful object. The location of the bowl will let you know what the ideal use for it is! It’s not just for the kitchen! Put one outside with your favorite rocks, use one as a planter, … think outside the box!
11. How do you set a price on your items?
Based on the challenges of making that particular piece and the loss behind it.
12. How do you feel when you sell one of your pieces?
Surprised, grateful, excited to know it will be loved!
13. Where did you grow up? How did you come to live in L.A.?
I grew up partially in Europe, then moved to Los Angeles for a few years to experience a new culture, learn English … and never left! I tried living in other countries, but Los Angeles has always felt like home!
14. How are you planning on growing and expanding your business? Any new pieces in the works?
Yes – always more pieces in the back of my head! Though right now, we are focusing on streamlining and refining our processes.
15. Do you feel a social presence is necessary on multiple platforms to be successful in business today? What are your platforms/handles currently?
Currently I only use Instagram, my blog (which needs updating) … and my website (work in progress) …
I think having a social presence is one huge part but not all, word of mouth is another, brand loyalty is another, but you have some incredible artists and designers that don’t use social media, and they are highly successful. I think it’s a destiny/path more than a formula. Social media certainly helps stay in touch and communicate with your tribe. It depends on what your intentions are …
16. What is your mission statement?
“The intention behind the work is to embrace imperfections, ground, center and be present. It is also about raising the frequency of one's self and environment, thus creating a matrix of healing for the planet. Healing through beauty ...”
I guess it’s also about forgiveness, mindfulness and a metaphor for who we are as ghosts in a shell … finding beauty in simplicity, flaws and imperfections. Doing with what we have. Finding beauty in the unexpected …
17. Do you have other artistic ventures you are currently working on, or have worked on in the past?
Yes, yes and yes … too many to mention here. But right now, the focus is on Humble Ceramics, and I’m trying to be happy with that otherwise I can get fragmented because I want to do it all! There is a big distance between an idea and the physical realization of it.
18. Do you love what you do? Does the work serve your soul?
I love what I do! And I do what I love. It does not mean however that it’s easy, or that I am not stressed, afraid, or constantly questioning everything … but yes, any time I can express myself by doing something beautiful – it serves my soul.
19. What would you say is avant-garde about Humble Ceramics?
That’s interesting; I don’t see us as avant-garde, so that’s a huge compliment! We’re just more simple, more modern, more minimal, yet warm and rustic at the same time if that makes any sense. We position ourselves in between styles, not just one. We are not “this OR that”, we are “this AND that” … we are non-linear … our work can be placed anywhere on the space-time continuum, and somehow it would be appropriate and fit in the context.
SHOP HUMBLE CERAMICS IN THESE CALIFORNIA LOCATIONS:
The Farm Shop at the Brentwood Country Mart.
AMBER INTERIORS - Calabassas
ARCH THE - DTLA Arts District
LAWSON FENNING - Hollywood
STATE & FIRST (by Maris Collective) - Napa
JENNI KAYNE - Montecito
JENNI KAYNE - Newport Beach
JENNI KAYNE - West Hollywood
AMBER INTERIORS - Pacific Palisades
JENNI KAYNE - Palo Alto
GENERAL STORE - San Francisco
GENERAL STORE - Venice