Belgian-born, Los Angeles–based ceramicist Delphine Lippens, of Humble Ceramics, considers her work as explorations in clay that reflect her philosophy of the balance and beauty of opposites. Beginning by centering clay on a potter’s wheel, every piece is intended to bring a sense of grounding and presence to its owner. The slight irregularities found make each piece one-of-a-kind. Lippens creates her pottery with mindfulness, one small batch at a time.

 

Bodhi Tree: How did you start working with clay as a form of artistic expression?

Delphine Lippens: I took a six-week summer course in August 2010 as an opportunity to spend six Saturday mornings with a friend and learn something new. I didn’t really have an interest in clay. This adventure was only supposed to last a few Saturdays. I think “it” (clay) chose me because I didn’t choose “it.”

Behind the Scenes with Humble Ceramics

BT: You’ve said that working with clay lets you feel like you’re interacting with past generations. Can you explain?

DL: It’s literally working with the earth, and thinking about the past generations who have come in contact with that clay. I have hundreds, if not thousands, of little moments throughout the week that make me feel this way, such as looking at the clouds and thinking of all the painters who have painted them throughout history, or looking at the moon and thinking I could be anywhere in the space-time continuum. Listening to the wind, closing my eyes and trying to figure out its trajectory by the sounds of leaves vibrating in the trees—this takes me back to childhood and beyond.

BT: How do you incorporate mindfulness in other parts of your life?

DL: It’s just about being present in what I do. Being aware, curious, awake, willing to learn, and doing acts with intention. Thinking about the consequence or impact of an action. It’s an internal process, a work in progress.

BT: What do you love about working with clay?

DL: When you are working with clay, you are working with earth, water, fire and air, but you are also working with gravity and time! How magical is that?!

BT: You’ve said Humble Ceramics uses complicated steps to achieve a simple aesthetic. Do you apply that concept to your everyday life?

DL: As a Gemini, I have two conflicting personalities, so it’s always a challenging act to make sure both sides are satisfied, acknowledged and recognized. It goes back to the circle and the square: both are very different, so how can I make them work together? There is always an inner dialogue going on about a search for peace and harmony.

BT: Tell us about where you get inspiration.

DL: I grew up in Belgium, where I was exposed to the work of Axel Vervoordt, Jules Wabbes, Jacques Wirtz, Pierre Culot, Jean-Francois Paquay and many more incredible artists and artisans who were all influenced by the Japanese aesthetic and concept of wabi-sabi. It was the balance of a beautiful architectural space with a beautifully imperfect object that brought so much warmth to a place. Also, the passage of time and wear and tear brought so much soul to the simplest object. It became an exercise of discernment between perfection and imperfection and how they interact with and are essential for one another. It’s about a certain type of harmony that happens between opposites, a bridge of some sort.

BT: Do you find that your work is appreciated more for its aesthetic or function?

DL: Both. Not one or the other, rather, one and the other!

This interview has been edited for space.

Behind the Scenes with Humble Ceramics

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