Lava vessels in black and the Scribe Series
The Scribe Series (left image). The Leto Series (right image).
We’ve carried ceramicist Heather Rosenman’s gorgeous, architecturally influenced ceramics for a few years now, and her work sits as easily in a quiet, modern space as it does a more transitional one. She credits both geology and brutalism as design influences—and you’ll find early civilization references in there too.
We caught up with her from her home studio in L.A. via Zoom this week, to chat about her experimental designs, and just how important the handmade is in these socially distanced times.
What got you in ceramics, and what makes you such an experimental artist?
I’m from New York, and I went to the Cooper Union, which is a school for art architecture and engineering, and I went to the Basel School in Switzerland for grad work. Everything was about design, and positive and negative form, positive and negative space—so it applied perfectly. I went from being a designer to being a design director, to a creative director, so I have a sense of business. But now I just get to sit in my studio and make stuff, and I feel like the luckiest person in the world.
In terms of my inspiration and influences for my series like these here, Letos—they’re based on Cycladic figures. We’re talking 3500 B.C. or something. They came from the Cyclades islands, and they were these beautiful forms, that nobody totally knows what they were for. I’ve done a lot of study on them; they think they were grave markers, and they’re just stunning.
The Letos are all named after Gods. If anybody who really studied Greek or Roman mythology, they’d be like, she’s just using some Greek here, some Roman there. From a branding standpoint—which is my background, identity and branding—I look for a God that it makes sense for that, to be that form. The name has to look beautiful and the form, what they stand for, has to obviously relate to the form. And the forms are very heroic and stoic and simplified.
I have another set called Chimera, which came as I started to cut pieces away from Letos to make them. I thought, that’s a beautiful piece, but it’s left over, so I started to take those, and put those together. I ended up with a whole new series that was a little bit smaller, that was kind of bookshelf friendly. Chimera is the mythology where a creature is created from, say, a dragon and a goat head and wings. So I was taking pieces from this piece, that piece, and putting them together.
I think you just need to constantly be doing something new. You can find your groove, you can find the purpose and what you love—which is why I’m so lucky. To find that thing that you just love. I just can’t stop making ceramics. I just love this medium.
What about your process for creating one of your Scribe vessels?
For the Scribe, the inspiration is a cuneiform, which is the first form of writing that man made. And when I say writing, I mean letterforms, I don’t mean hieroglyphs.
They’re stunning—just beautiful. It’s almost like speaking in tongues when I’m working on a Scribe piece. I just go into a trance—it’s this therapeutic, almost hypnotic scratching and carving.
Do you create every piece yourself?
Yes, every piece.
There seems to be a real draw toward the handmade and ceramic pieces right now—are you finding that with your own work?
Yes—there’s a deep appreciation for objects made by hand. The gesture of the artist is imprinted on the work. Every time I make a piece, it’s going to be just slightly different. It’s the slight variation that means that each piece is individual. It gives the piece life, breath, expression, individuality. I find that ethos in many of the materials being used by artists right now, like wood and glass, fibre, metal—all of those pieces that Provide all has.
Provide is like an orchestra, all playing at the same time. And it’s the whole that is beautiful. I mean, each individual instrument is gorgeous, but then when they work together as an interior designer goes in and says, I’ll take that piece and that piece—and obviously David is curating that prior to people coming—then there’s the culmination of the whole of the symphony.
I also have a real belief in a tenant called Truth to Materials. It’s in modern architecture, which is this belief that things should look like they are, and when we talk about glass and metal and wood and fibre art, weavings and things like that. That’s what is appreciated right now—that people want this piece that’s closest to the raw state. That’s also what draws me to ceramics.
I suspect we’re going to see a draw to the handmade, the authentic, even more on the other side of this COVID-19 crisis, as people miss that humanity and human touch.
That’s really interesting! That is so true. And it’s the gesture of humanity, exactly, in these pieces. Any little flaw shows us a person touched that. And how beautiful that is.
Lava vessels in luna.