meet the makers | Jun 6, 2024 |
How this Brooklyn maker finds her flow

Ellen Robinson doesn’t draw a line between art and design. First came the art: After completing her MFA at the School of Visual Arts, the New Jersey native turned her attention to ceramics. She stayed in New York, honing her craft through sculpture residencies at two downtown community centers (Henry Street Settlement and the historic Greenwich House Pottery). Then last year, she began to focus on making functional pieces out of her loft in Brooklyn’s East Williamsburg neighborhood.

Ellen Robinson
Ellen RobinsonJohn Glassie

“That idea that there’s not really a separation between art and design, and it’s all flowing from the same place, just opened my eyes,” she tells Business of Home. “Making more symmetrical objects and things that have a specific function really interests me, and what I’m trying to create in my current work is the same thing that I was trying to access through sculpture—creating an emotional landing place or an interior landscape to fall into.”

Robinson has broadened her repertoire to include vases, candlesticks and bowls—all hand-made with terra cotta earthenware clay that is coiled and pinched. She starts with an idea that draws out sculptural elements from her previous work, and after trial and error, chooses the most visually compelling form to turn into a series. It takes about a week to build a form, another day to create the surface on top of it, and then it dries for three to four weeks and is fired twice. “One of the things about hand-building that I love is that you start with an idea or a shape or a gesture, and then, through the process, it really becomes your own form, with your own interpretation and your own touch as a way of creating something new,” says the artist.

The Old Enchantment candlesticks
The Old Enchantment candlesticks Ellen Robinson

One of her favorite series is Prehistoire, which features vases with a delicate foot and lip that were inspired by Egyptian vessels she spotted on a trip to the Louvre. “I am a big ceramics nerd, and I love older things. Ancient things, I find very inspiring,” she says. Her newest series will center on Cycladic-esque bowls that evoke items she saw at the Sèvres museum on that same Paris trip.

Robinson sells her pieces on her website as well as in individual boutiques, and they will be on design platform The Invisible Collection later this year, when she will be developing a lighting collection.

“Creating things that are beautiful, and the process of making things, is for me a path to inner peace,” she says. “Getting into that state and really seeing and appreciating things and creating—that’s my first definition of success. Having people like and want [my creations] is the other part that breathes life into the process.”

To learn more about Ellen Robinson, check out her website or Instagram.

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