Woodberry life speaks to Lucie Raufast, a French Hackney-based designer who draws inspiration from her training as a graphic designer to make stunning ceramics.
American art director and graphic designer Paul Rand once said: “Design is so simple. That’s why it is so complicated”. While Demi Moore in Ghost—just before that infamous scene at the potter’s wheel with Patrick Swayze—may have made it look easy enough, the reality of pottery-making requires painstaking skill, patience and persistence. From glazing glitches and cracked pots to kiln explosions—these incidents will be all-too-familiar to those who have spent time working with clay.
This is why when pottery turns out this beautiful, it deserves to be celebrated. Lucie Raufast’s thoughtfully designed works of art are inspired by her graphic design training and her love for simple, non-fussy aesthetics. She fuses organic shapes and forms with understated, earthy hues, giving each item an instantly classic and classy look.
We caught up with Lucie to learn more about what sparked her passion for ceramics, her inspirations and how she approaches the creative process, and what she enjoys most about being an East London resident…
How did you get into pottery?
When I was growing up in France, Wednesday afternoons were reserved for extra-curricular activities. I wasn’t interested in sports or music so my parents enrolled me onto a course that would change their activities every semester, one of which was pottery, and I just fell in love it. I took private classes and did this for several years until I got to secondary school where other interests took over. A few years ago, I joined a pottery class and it was like riding a bicycle; I picked up where I left off, fell back in love and started again.
How would you describe your visual style?
You can tell from my pottery that I’m a graphic designer. I enjoy the simplicity of shapes, the symmetry of shapes and the wheel. I like graphic design that is useful and pared back to do what it needs to do. I believe in simplifying the message as much as possible, visually and word wise. It’s the same with my pottery. I like to be as minimal as possible, but I like it to serve a purpose too. This is why I enjoy making tableware and objects that you can use more than decorative objects.
What inspires your work?
I draw my inspiration from everywhere – from working for years and years on a computer where geometrical shapes are really easy to achieve, from ceramicists past and present, from people in my studio… Sometimes I try to go a bit crazy and move outside of my comfort zone. It’s a part of the process of learning something about yourself; by challenging yourself and learning something about the clay or your practice. There’s also a nice creative energy in the area. People just make all sorts of things and find ways to rent a tiny desk at a studio and find time to go there during the weekend. This has been a real inspiration; to see people with that attitude of feeling capable of doing whatever they want… there’s that spirit of being free to create, if you want to.
How do you approach the creative process?
I treat this like a project, not dissimilar to my work as a designer, in that it has a beginning, ‘the plan’, a middle, ‘the making’, and an end, ‘the result’. At the planning stage, I draw the pot, the shape and style. I picture what colours I will use. At the making stage, I test. I try different weights and types of clay and there is the whole process of creating the plate; turning the plate, firing it and glazing it. Then there is the final result. I learn a lot in these tests. Some tests stay as tests and some tests end up being quite successful and I make more of the ones that made the cut.
You did your art foundation at the Ateliers de Sèvres in Paris. Why did you decide to do your graphic design degree in London?
In France, the teaching is very academic – it is more focused on learning how to draw an image perfectly. We were told that in the UK, graphic design would be taught in a way where the focus would be much more on the concept than the crafting and making of a perfect image. To me, that made more sense so I moved to London to study at Chelsea College Art & Design and found this to be true.
What do you enjoy most about living in East London?
I’ve been living in East London for 12 years now. When I first came to East London, it was a lot poorer and felt much more diverse. There are still pockets of some of those communities. For example, what I love most about Stoke Newington is that there’s a really strong Turkish community, as well as a Jamaican community, and it automatically makes the area a lot richer and more interesting in terms of culture, cuisine and what’s going on. I come from a very privileged town just outside of Paris called St-Germain-en-Laye, which has none of this diversity.
What’s next for you?
It’s been an interesting year with COVID so I’ve tried to enjoy being in the studio without thinking too much about having a bigger plan or a bigger project. I did a Christmas pop up three years ago in Stoke Newington and it was very successful and I was very grateful. Mostly friends and family turned up but there were also shop owners from Stoke Newington who I didn’t know who were interested in bigger commissions. I haven’t accepted bigger commissions yet because it’s only a hobby for me right now and I worry about the pressure taking the fun out of making pottery for me.
The question has come to my mind: would I rather do this for a living? It is such a big career change and such a big commitment, I’m not sure I’m there yet. I very much enjoy my job as a graphic designer, and am not ready to give up what I’m doing. For me, it’s about finding the right balance between work and play, and sometimes it’s nice to just disconnect from everything and get my hands dirty with some fresh clay.