Ruby is a ceramicist and artist, based in Sydney on the Northern Beaches, just like us. She is the creative force behind the new range of ceramics available in our showroom and online, just in time for Christmas. Her playful nature and creative spirit is the driver behind all of her beautifully handmade pieces, each with a whimsical organic shape, an ode to Ruby's personality and creative eye. As you take a sip of coffee from her Mitt Mug, display flowers in her Mountain Vase or treasure your NMJ pieces in the Pippy Dish, get to know Ruby below...
Tell us a little bit about yourself... Where are you based and what journey did you take to become the maker that you are today?
I’m based in Sydney on the Northern Beaches. I’ve always been quite creatively driven and initially started out my pursuit in drawing and watercolour painting when I was a wee one. I bounced around quite a bit trying to find something that I could work with in a career as well as being passionately driven by what I was going to be spending so much time with. I started fine arts for 6 months, hated it, couldn’t apply it to many jobs, so deferred. I thought for art in the 21st century, you had to move into graphic design to make money from a creative avenue so I began there. Trying to wriggle my watercolour hands into digital devices... put it this way, I’m not the most patient person when it comes to tech. I fumbled around after completing my graphic design course and moved to my other passion for nutrition and personal training; returning back to my fine arts degree adding on secondary education in late 2017. This is where I fell in love with ceramics. We were only taught hand building skills... again my patience drove me up the wall when I had the pottery wheels sitting there in the corner of the room. I couldn’t help myself but wedge up a ball of clay, put my headphones in and look up a YouTube video to teach myself. I think I spent that first day in there until late at night just practicing centering the clay on the wheel, not even making anything. I had in my mind all these shapes layered in the colours from watercolour paintings that I wanted to create, and I was determined from here. I’m honestly so thankful for the patience and practice this art form has taught me. No matter how stressed or how quickly you want to get somewhere or make something you can’t rush this process and it forces you to slow right down, be present with what’s in front of you and appreciate its pace. A character trait I’ve always struggled with. I spent days in the studio by myself just practicing and practicing. As soon as I had learnt to control a small piece of clay, I wanted to throw bigger and bigger. It just opened my mind to all the possibilities of this muddy mess.
I’ve still got so much to learn and have honestly only scratched the surface of all of it, but I think that’s one of the most exciting things about it! Between making and creating glazes it’s a never-ending road of new things to learn, variables to control and spontaneous surprises.
What influences and inspires you?
I’ve always been inspired by our time outdoors in nature. Whether it’s an early morning run, a surf or a dive with sea creatures, the colours and pastel hues you find in nature is what has always driven my painting subjects, colours and glaze recipes. I want to capture that and bring it into the home.
I was first influenced by some of Lauren Campbell’s ceramic pieces before I even started my studies. I came across some of them on one of our road trips and her mesmerizing glazes. They seriously still blow me away and I love collecting her pieces and supporting other artists, she’s a glaze genius! I'm also inspired by local ‘Magnolia Mountains’ refined perfection in every aspect of their work. It’s ridiculous how long I could just stare at one of their mugs for.
What does a typical day look like to you?
A typical day when I get to work for myself starts of nice an early with something outdoors either a run, surf, swim and a sweaty gym session. Something to get a bit of a sweat up, clear the head and get into the day.
I make a coffee when I’m home, (always priority) hopefully with my hubby before we are off to work. I head downstairs to my studio (fancy word for the concrete garage) with my sketch book, overalls and some good music. Generally, it starts out with checking the drying time of everything from the day before, lots of back and forwards between putting things in the breeze to dry and back onto the shelves to stay damp. I then weigh out and wedge up all my clay that I’m planning on getting through for the day... I’m always a bit over ambitious in this stage. Now the throwing can begin, I like to bounce between a bunch a smaller things and larger vessels so I don’t get bored of the same thing and can experiment a bit more with larger shapes.
Between throwing pieces, a day is a mixture of turning pieces from the day before, making handles for mugs and pitchers and getting glaze tests ready thinking for the months ahead. It’s a lot of back and forwards which I like because it keeps you on your feet and buzzing. By the end of the day once my hands are tired, I head back upstairs and like to draw or plan out anything I’ve had pondering in mind from the day for future collections and pieces. I find it’s hard to get my mind to switch off from all the possibilities and problem solving when I’ve been absorbed in it all day, but I love that that’s work for me!
Tell us more about your collection of ceramic pieces and your creative style.
I love creating whimsical organic shapes and anything that looks a little odd. I mix my own clay and make my own glazes. While this is a time consuming process I’ve found it very rewarding when you get it right! It’s a bit of a rabbit hole that I don’t mind.
I wanted my collection to be for the everyday and travel, something that is beautiful to admire as well as functional. I love watercolour painting and soft hues, experimenting with overlapping glazes that have an opaque, matte, buttery finish and how these work against different clay bodies. I love creating vessels for flowers, large pitchers with funny handles and platters, keeping them colourful and looking so delicious you want to nibble them.
At NMJ we are all about the handmade artisan object and understand the love, time and effort involved in creating. What does it mean to you to have your ceramics become a part of peoples every day lives?
I still remember when someone first asked if they could have one of my tests that I thought absolutely nothing of, but how much excitement it brought that person in having it as their own for their morning cup of tea or coffee; even with all its chips and slips! So to see a collection come together that I have poured so much love and time into and see someone light up Like that when they get to pick out their own little imperfections makes me so happy. To be able to create something for someone else to treasure, and for that to be work, I couldn’t ask for much more.
What is your most treasured piece of jewellery in your jewellery box?
Definitely my wedding ring! It’s beautiful! My hubby designed it and It’s a cluster of different shades of peach sapphires with a little ruby on the side of it. I love it!
Do you have any advice on how to turn your passion into a living?
Don’t compromise on what your driven by and love doing, even if it doesn’t make sense in the ‘career world’ or the ‘right thing to do’. I believe if you keep pursuing what you love and what your passionate about doors always open even if they don’t exist now or doesn’t make sense yet. Don’t let your creativity be squished into a box of ‘what it should look like’. It’s just one foot in front of the other in the direction of what you love to do. If you genuinely love and pursue what your doing, work will always find you. I think too often today we are pressured to do this the other way round.
Shop Ruby Robinson's pieces here.