Q + A with Potter Ariela Kuh of ANK Ceramics

Ariela Kuh of ANK Ceramics is a small-production potter who currently resides in Lincolnville, Maine.  Her approach to her craft is to make things in small batches - turned on the wheel or by hand.  Ariela has made prototypes for Momofuku Ko and Luksus in New York.  She has received mentions in  Bon Appetit Magazine, Design Sponge, Refinery 29, among others. Herewith is a Q+A with the potter.

What's your story in five sentences or less?

I have liked making things with my hands for as long as I could remember.  About six years ago, I was given free access to a ceramics studio.  Working with clay was not something I had considered, but I soon became enamored with the tactility of the material and the challenge of the process.  After a couple of years, seeking to accelerate my learning, I found a teacher with whom I really connected and a potter to work for as a studio assistant.  

When I moved to Maine, I set up a (semi)-proper studio and expanded my practice into the experiment I am currently in the midst of: trying to make a living as a small-production potter and determining whether or not that is sustainable in terms of practicalities and spirit.  

When did you know you wanted to become an artist?

Some part of me always knew it, but I declared it when I first encountered oil paint.

You went to Hampshire College, a highly regarded institution known for its "alternative curriculum."  Can you share about your experience there?

At Hampshire, I studied studio art and art history.  I had a very positive experience.  I liked the independence and responsibility of self-directed education.  My peers there were then and continue to be the dominant influence.  We collaborated in thought and in work.  They are some of the more curious, rigorous, and driven people I know. 

Your pieces are so unique, so simple, and yet have so much depth to them.  What's your stylistic approach to your craft?

Aesthetic sensibility is innate and intuitive, but also informed by the things we study and hold close.  i am perpetually in love with Matisse's paintings - the simplicity, the complexity, the rhythm of his explorations, the way they sit in the world.  i like things that agree with their surroundings but also quietly disrupt them.

Some people call art meditative.  Do you agree?  What do you think about when you're sitting at the wheel?

Yes, working at the wheel can be meditative for me the way that running was for me when I was younger.  Quiet accessed through repetitive motion. 

What's a typical "day in the life of" for you? 

I wake up, make coffee, and head down to the studio.  I am most focused in the morning.  These days, I am usually filling orders and I don't have a lot of time for exploring and experimenting, although I always make some time in my week for new forms and new ideas.  Typically, I get lost in work and the day rushes by.

How did Momofuku discover you?  What kinds of pieces did they choose from you?

I sent them some samples and they ended up ordering small bowls and sake cups for their new location.

What's your favorite piece?

I usually find inspiration in what I made when I was just beginning with clay, when I had a fair amount of intention but a lot less control.

What are your future plans for ANK Ceramics?

This winter, I am going to take some time off from orders to work on developing new glazes and refining forms.

Who are other artists that inspire you?

These days I keep returning to late potter Lucie Rie and architect and designer Ettore Sottass. 

Do you have any rituals?

No, I have habits but not rituals.

Onto the subject of food: What's your favorite thing to eat, your favorite restaurant, your cooking habits?

I like to cook and I cook almost everything I eat.  I do not have a favorite dish or restaurant, but my favorite category of food is vegetables.