Based out of Asheville, NC, Heather Knight of Element Clay Studio is a ceramic artist bringing the elements, patterns, and textures from nature to life in her work. With unwavering dedication, Heather is dedicated to remaining a purely craft business, producing nothing but 100% uniquely handmade pieces for her growing pool of customers and admirers. We recently had the opportunity to dive in a little deeper with Heather, and learned about her process and how – even many years later -some works are still not finished.
How did you get started with clay designs?
I started working with clay in high school, but didn’t get serious until I went back to college in my mid-twenties. The clay studio is just where I feel most at home creatively in the art field. When I graduated in 2006, I opened a group studio and began building my current body of work.
Can you describe your process? What tools and techniques do you use in your work?
My work is all built by hand using a variety of techniques – including slab building and pinching. My most important tools are my fingers. I shape each piece of texture on my tiles and pinch the texture on many of my bowls. My process is relatively simple, but repetitive.
Do you plan out each piece ahead of time? Or do you jump right in?
My work takes time to develop, both conceptually and technically. I amy sketch something beforehand, but generally I won’t know how things will work until I get them into 3 dimensions. Sometimes, I think have a great idea, but when it gets to the table, it needs to be revised many times or scrapped all together. There are pieces I am working on now that I have been trying to figure out for many years and still have no finished product.
What is your most unusual source of inspiration?
My favorite thing to do is build inspiration boards. I have two very large cork boards above my work table with a constantly rotating series of images. When I have a little time to myself, I pull out all of my magazines and catalogs and tear out pages to my heart’ content (favorites are Bon Appétit and Dwell). You never know where you might see something that sparks your creativity. I have photos of fabrics, vegetables, plates, flowers, rooms, restaurants – it all subtly informs my work.
What are some challenges you face in your work?
I think the biggest challenge is time, because I build everything by hand. I am only physically able to make a handful of pieces in a given day, and sometimes that can be frustrating for myself and potential clients.
Would you tell us about your work on the sea urchin bowl? How did you come to work with chef Ryan McCaskey of Acadia?
The sea urchin bowl was the starting point for my entire line of textural work. They are one of my most popular items and were featured in Bon Appetit in 2013 – which is how chef McCaskey found me. He got in touch last year before an even he was having, and the rest is history.
Do you often cater to chefs for any of the pieces you create?
I generally work within the parameters of my existing work. I may create a custom size or perhaps a glaze color, but the textures and ideas are already in my play.
Are there any other artisans you admire at the moment?
I am currently obsessed with Valeria Nascimento, a Brazilian artist. Her work is quite brilliant. Her use of very simple forms and repetition in her installations is just breathtaking. It is modern, clean, and organic – all the things that I am drawn to in design.
I also love Rowan Mersh, a British multimedia sculptor. His work is an exploration of material, and it’s a little mind-blowing when you realize you are looking at textile or paper, and it has been transformed into this completely different thing.
What is one (or some) of your favorite pieces from your collection?
Right now, my favorite pieces are the Luxe Tiles. I am currently developing more floral designs and plans for a flower wall installation at my studio. My clients have been very receptive to the work, which is exciting for me. I am looking forward to exploring more of these floral themes and seeing how they affect all of my work.
We know they’re hard to resist. Purchase these gorgeous pieces here!
Keep up with Heather on her Instagram!