Ruthie Frank is a young ceramics artist from New Plymouth, New Zealand. She produces slipcast porcelain pieces created using her own molds, sometimes taken from everyday throw away vessels like plastic cups and bowls. Ruthie adds layers of marbled slip, before glazing. The results are beautiful and unique vessels and platters, often fine and translucent with the unmistakable feel of porcelain. But don’t be mistaken – they may sound delicate, but these pieces can be used every day (we even put them through the dishwasher!).
We caught up with Ruthie recently and asked her a few questions about her practice.
How did you get into ceramics?
My Aunty Caroline was a potter here in Taranaki so growing up I was able to see the process involved in creating a piece through to the final product. I guess this exposure planted the idea that one day I might like to dabble in the art of potting. After some time overseas I relocated back to my hometown New Plymouth and decided to take an introductory course at the local Pottery Club at the old vicarage here. The studio and the potters that run the classes are so passionate and knowledgeable it really helped me with getting started.
My Aunty passed away a while ago now but I love that her work is still around today. Not long ago a family friend found some of her mugs in an op shop here. It's nice to see some of her work still in circulation, and being used in peoples day-to-day lives.
What’s your creative process?
This varies considerably, but I will describe what happens most of the time. Usually, the idea of what I make comes from another object. A lot of my favourite pieces have been objects that I have found in second-hand stores. For example a cup, I might like the shape of the cup but it is made from another material that I am not entirely happy with, let's say plastic. I then take it back to the studio and make a mold from it. My work is created by a process of ‘slip casting’ using the mold to create my pieces – I am able to vary each piece by marbling my clay with colour – this way no two pieces can be the same.
Do you think living in Taranaki has had an influence on your work?
I don’t think the region itself has influenced my work in particular. If anything it has influenced my ability to be able to work. Living in New Plymouth affords me a lifestyle I would not be able to achieve in a bigger center such as Auckland. In particular the lower cost of living and the laid back attitude of New Plymouth. Winter here is relatively quiet socially which gives me more time in my studio to make, play, sculpt and bake.
Your work is fluid in colour, shape and aesthetic – what inspires this? Or do you think it may just be a reflection of self?
I don’t think that the fluidity in my work is a particularly abstract concept. It is more a reflection of things I find aesthetically pleasing - whether that is a particular colour or shape.
Each piece is so unique and beautiful, they feel like pieces of art – do you see yourself expanding into the art world?
Thank you. I am definitely open and very interested in the idea of making some work that would fit or function well in the art world, in one way or another. This year I have been studying UKU at Te Wananga O Aotearoa in Porirua. This has introduced me more to working with clay and the concepts behind sculpture. Whilst I enjoy making functional pieces my study has inspired me to explore the concept of working with clay to create thought provoking pieces.
Your work looks like it would be quite therapeutic to create. What’s the best thing about what you do?
If I were to pick out one point which is the best part for me, it would be the excitement of the first peek into kiln after the final firing. There is a lot of uncertainty as to what might be inside and it's always such a relief when I am happy with the final product!
Where can everyone see your work?
Online with MOOMA !
My worked is stocked at Vintage Industries in New Plymouth, Vessel in Wellington and a recent collaboration with The Virtue - can be found at http://thevirtue.co.nz/
Mooma stocks a range of Ruthie’s beautiful pieces and we’re looking forward to some new work from her soon.
Photography by Evangeline Davis and Anna Briggs