Natasha Alphonse is a local Seattle-based potter, Indigenous artist & maker of some of the most beautiful ceramic vessels we have been fortunate enough to eat our Westerly food from.
We met up with Natasha (& one of her cute pups) at her ceramics studio in Pioneer Square, Seattle to talk more about her impressive self-run business.
When did you first begin working with clay?
I took my first wheel throwing class in 2011 and have been making pots ever since. It was an elective I took while I was completing my BFA with a focus on drawing.
What inspired the creation of Natasha Alphonse Ceramics, and how was that journey for you?
I started my business about 5 years ago. I always wanted to create a life and career around art, the life of potter making functional work was something that I could break down fairly easily to understand what it would take to make a living. Journey is a good way to think about this business, it is constantly changing and evolving into something I never really expected. I think the key was to just start and take it one step at a time, problem solve as you need to along the way.
What are your greatest accomplishments as a creative? What are you most challenged by?
I don’t feel like there has been one specific grand accomplishment I've achieved so far, what I would say is that I feel this path so far has nurtured a lot of self confidence and feeling of independence as a creative. The moments or situations along the way where I ignored my intuition and gut feelings have proven that I need to listen and trust myself more.
For this specific business, the thing that I feel most challenged by is having to wear so many hats in all areas of the company. It can be a little overwhelming to be the person creating everything, then to have to also do the business side of planning how it is presented to the world. I have learned to accept that I can’t do it all and I think that is the trick, to know when to ask for help or where to focus my energy.
What are your future goals for expansion going into the new year (as a self-managed small business)?
I feel really fortunate to have more and more support each year, it has allowed me to work more as an artist exploring new surfaces and materials and that is my favorite part creating these pieces. I am not interested in expanding in a way where I am moving to more industrial production, instead I am interested in creating more one of a kind pieces of pottery that are intentional and special. There is so much stuff out there in the world already, I'm trying to be more thoughtful about what I am making and why.
In what ways have you been inspired by the earth in your art?
I love working with the raw material of earth itself. It is something so ancient and I am always amazed that we are still making pots with clay today, thousands of years later. My love of nature shines through with the surface and design choices that I pursue. I like to keep the exterior surfaces bare in lots of cases, to have that tactile connection when you get to use each piece is really special. Working with the raw properties itself also highlights how quietly beautiful the clay is in its natural state, they essentially turn into rocks after you fire them and I like that they feel honest and earthy in the final product.
What lessons do you find are most important when working with clay?
Patience. It was something that occurred to me really early when I started working with the material. There are lots of steps and stages the clay goes through and timing is everything. If you are too heavy handed and try to rush things when the time isn’t right, the clay will not work with you. It is also a good teacher when things don’t work out in the studio, when something cracks you just need to move on and practice patience in the way of starting over. This lesson was one of the things that made me fall in love with being a potter, it is such a useful lesson to master to be content and happy, and it was something I wanted to be reminded of daily.
What brings you the most joy in your daily creative work?
Quiet and freedom, I love working solo in the studio and using my hands. I am pretty introverted so being alone is where I feel the most myself, where I can fully dive into what I am making or plan what I want to make next.
So many of your pieces are intended as food vessels - does mindful eating play a role in your creations & if so, in what ways?
When I am making pieces for food, I hope that they are a vessel to compliment and elevate whatever you are filling it with. I love imagining all of the things people might use the bowls and plates for, these pots carry on a whole life of use which is so amazing to me. I think it does change how you experience what you are eating, fully embracing beauty with all the senses. The simplicity of my pottery is intentional so that the food you place inside can be the star.
What types of classes do you offer and to whom (level of expertise, group size, etc.)?
Before Covid, I held small wheel throwing classes up to 6. Right now I am only offering private classes for 1-2 people, any level.
Can you elaborate a bit on commissions, for those interested in purchasing a set?
I can customize sizing on dining sets for select collections like the Riverbed line and Desert line. Otherwise I release shop updates with new work every other month. The best way to keep informed on when new work is available is to subscribe to my newsletter on my website.
Where can your pottery be found locally?
I have an online shop at Alphonsestudio.com, also some Seattle shops you can find my work at would be Glasswing, Saltstone Ceramics, Housewright Gallery, Les Amis, the Frye Museum, Spruce Apothecary and Urban Earth Nursery.