Back to the Ancient Future:
In the Studio with Romy Northover
The creations of artist and ceramicist Romy Northover result from a unique blend of techniques and traditions from around the world, as well as an innate sense of craft. Each piece has its layers: European training, Japanese methods, and pure intuition. “It’s a very personal thing,” Northover explains of her ceramics, which share a style she calls “ancient future.”
Growing up in the English countryside, Northover was surrounded by creativity and a family that found joy in aesthetics. She began working with ceramics at an early age but also experimented with a range of media. Her interest in moving images and installation-based work deepened during her studies at Goldsmiths, University of London. “The experience there was very intense,” Northover says. “My work got very conceptual. My work has always had a lot to do with space, and ceramics does, too.” After earning a degree in fine art, Northover worked for several fashion designers and continued creating video art, exhibiting her work across Europe.
After spending some time evolving her craft and concentrating on her art in Berlin, Northover settled in New York. She made the decision to pour all of her efforts into one medium. “I have always come back to ceramics,” Northover says. “It’s like I was saving it.” She honed her skills and learned new, Japanese techniques at the Togei Studio before making the decision to start her own company, No., in 2012.
I feel very connected to ancient, primitive arts and to raw surfaces and textures, but I’m equally into super-refined design, styling, and modernist forms. I like the dichotomy in technique, balance, form, and the experiential process. Romy Northover
While at work in her Greenpoint, Brooklyn studio, Northover looks to a myriad of inspirations, but the linkages are subtle. “My work is very emotional,” she says. “There is no direct reference you can see; it’s more of a feeling.” She absorbs the visual impact of certain shapes and frequently looks to nature, literature, and the layering and color palettes of fashion. A growing catalog of striking sights, sounds, and textures builds a base for Northover to draw upon.
My work is very emotional. There is no direct reference you can see; it’s more of a feeling. Romy Northover
For all of her richly varied sources of inspiration, Northover’s creations are unified by a sense of purity and balance, an aesthetic she describes as “soft, natural minimalism. I like leaving things out.” Northover calls her style “modern classic,” coining the term “ancient future,” a connecting of dots from classical to contemporary ceramics. While shaped by her own methods and adaptations, her work makes use of three Japanese techniques: rokuro, the throwing of clay as the potting wheel spins in the opposite direction; kinuneri, a kneading technique used to remove air from the clay; and tebineri, which breaks down to mean “hand-building.”
Northover seeks to imbue each piece with a personal quality, something that the handmade object’s future owner will connect with. “It has a lot to do with textile quality. It translates into something slightly off that you can develop a relationship with,” she says. “That’s something special about ceramics. It grows with you. And there’s something peaceful about making bowls. It’s something that’s functional. It has that human experience.”
The motion of the brush is simple and instantaneous. I work in collections, and what I’m into is always moving, progressing, and changing. Romy Northover
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Uncompromisingly Natural: Botanical Beauty from Susanne Kauffmann