Interview: Lindsey Hampton
09.03.20 Words by Hannah Valentine

Interview: Lindsey Hampton

From the colours and shapes to the overall form, the Vancouver-based ceramicist’s cool, striking products have all been influenced by her work as a graphic designer. We talk to her about the importance of function in her work, her thoughts on the place of ceramics in the art world, and how she’s recently been enjoying a better balance between the two disciplines she practices. Plus we get a look at her beautiful studio.
09.03.20 Words by Hannah Valentine

What’s your background and how did you end up doing the work you do?
I went to school for Graphic Design, but it wasn't something I always knew I wanted to do – it wasn't a career option that was ever discussed when I was younger. But I always really loved making things and eventually, it just clicked. When I finished school, I took a beginner's pottery class just because I thought it would be fun. That was almost ten years ago now and I haven't really looked back. I fell in love with it and just never stopped.

Do you see a relationship between your ceramics and your design work?
There’s definitely an overlap. I could describe it by saying graphic design is the parent, and ceramics is the child. Moving from design to ceramics, I learned how to see colour differently, to break everything down into shapes, to look at everything with a sense of balance and hierarchy, and that helped me to do everything I've done from that point on. The main difference is that with design I can try things out and work through ideas relatively quickly, but with clay I have to rely more on intuition. Clay takes a lot of time, and there is less room for error – mistakes can only be fixed by making the whole thing over again. But there is something to be said for all your decisions being so finite – it makes your mind slow down to try and match the speed of the process.

You mentioned on Instagram recently that your approach to your ceramics work has changed a lot. Can you tell us more about this?
I never set out to make ceramics my full-time gig. It grew organically and then I got to the point where it wasn’t sustainable for my mind and body. This past year I started working part-time at a very lovely design studio in Vancouver called Arithmetic, which has allowed me to step back and re-access the parts of working with clay that I fell in love with. I'm still figuring out what my new approach looks like, but for now it means less production work, more experimenting and more one-off pieces. I'm working on some large-scale pieces right now. I think this year will see a lot of material mixing – I've been sewing a lot and I've been thinking about ways to combine textiles and clay.

What’s your creative process when it comes to making ceramics?
It's a little bit different each time. There are times when I've visualised exactly what I want to make and that carries me through to the finished piece. But often I'll go into it not having any idea and I just let it come together intuitively. Many, many things come out wrong. I started developing ways to use things that broke or just came out wrong by smashing them up and setting the bits in resin in a sort of terrazzo style – turning them into coasters and trays, and giving them new life. There's always a pile of poor wonky pots in my studio.

You have a very distinctive colour palette. What draws you to the colours you use?
My colour choices are very intuitive. I like to think about how the piece is used and the type of home it could end up in and then sometimes push that a little further into something that is a little bolder. I love pairing colour with the raw texture and colour or the clay body, that's why I love using speckled clay bodies, having an unnatural colour on top of a naturally textured surface that allows it to shine through is a very satisfying blend for me.

How much do you think about the possible function of your pieces when you’re creating them?
The majority of the time I create something that does have a function. I love that part of the process; design-forward usability. Raw fired clay has a wonderful quality of ageing with use, that is why I leave so much of it unglazed – oils and dirt and life change things over time and make those pieces personal. That's why I'm such a big fan of use, as opposed to something that sits on a shelf, however everyone looks at things differently – I don't get too precious about objects, but it's beautiful when people do.

What do you think is the place of ceramics in the art world?
Ceramics are usually aligned with craft, and that feels right to me. Craft is beautiful and important and has a rich history. I do feel like it can be undervalued – sometimes you'll come across something very well-made, a mug, for example, being sold for $20, and I think about all the time and effort and the years of learning and money spent on studios and kilns, and just wish that all of that was taken into consideration when work is sold. It's nice to be accessible, but it's also nice to value your work.

Lastly, who are your heroes in the world of ceramics?
Peter Shire [the Los Angeles-based artist and designer associated with the Memphis Group] was my first art hero and continues to be such an inspiration. His ceramic work was the first I saw that I felt was super design-focused, and which broke out of the mould of what I thought ceramics was. His interdisciplinary approach to his work is something that made me realise you can truly move through any medium as a designer.