The audio file for this article was produced by the Ceramic Arts Network staff and not read by the author.

Ceramics Monthly: Have your interests in working with clay evolved? What do you plan to explore next? 

Naomi Peterson: I was in love with every little idea when I first found ceramics—I wanted to try everything, from mold making to glaze mixing, handbuilding, and wheel throwing. Handbuilding has always been my method of choice, how the object becomes this encapsulated moment in time merging the design process with the tactile process of directly manipulating the form, translating intention into object. My work pre-pandemic focused on objects as facilitators, within the context of social drinking, from alcohol to coffee or tea, and how some forms have specific functions depending on the content or context. In 2021 during the pandemic and for my graduate thesis, I concentrated on how objects can take on their own personalities, interact with other objects, and contain not just tangible food and drink but also intangible feelings and ideas. Throughout the shelter-in-place order, I couldn’t see my friends or family; it gave me a lot of time to think about the objects I collect and take comfort in. The work I make now has changed, but it is the same on a fundamental level as when I first got my hands on clay; every series I create is a family, related in some way to the previous and future pieces, and though usually I create individuals to stand alone, I feel they are happier together. 

Through larger forms as well as elaborate display contexts, I plan to continue exploring these personal objects inspired by the cute, the comfortable, and the joyful—ideas that are constantly evolving. 

1 Neon Pickle Jar, 9 in. (22.9 cm) in height, white stoneware, underglaze, glaze, fired to cone 5 in oxidation, 2023.

CM: What role do you think makers play within today’s culture? How do you think you contribute? 

NP: Makers are problem solvers no matter the medium—clay, woodworking, knitting, writing, cooking, etc. I believe everyone is a maker; I think it’s vital for people to share their knowledge with others and support those who are uncertain on their own creative journey. To create is to share a perspective, a culmination of consciously learned and many unconscious experiences; through making we can learn to understand one another beyond language and perceived differences. 

With clay, I’ve learned how to adapt to a highly volatile process and material. It can still be quite challenging, but I think that’s one of the reasons why having a creative pursuit is important for everyone, it teaches you perseverance. I hope, through the classes I teach and the work I create, to contribute positively; in both, I aim to show just some of the infinite possibilities of layering simple forms and methods to build complexity, demonstrating that elaborate and often difficult things can be tackled, one step at a time. 

2 Flower Pot, 13½ in. (34.3 cm) in height, red stoneware, underglaze, glaze, fired in oxidation to cone 1, 2022.

CM: What role does color play in your work? 

NP: Color is the voice my forms need to be able to speak, to take on warmth and come alive. I construct each piece in batches and plan surfaces later. If I preplan the surface and form from the very beginning, the process becomes too controlled, not allowing for spontaneity. I use Procreate, an app on my iPad, to draw over pictures of my pieces with colors similar to the underglazes and glazes I use. My forms can become lifeless when I try to restrain them within rigid expectations. When considered separately, however, I can approach pieces made a few days to a couple of years ago with fresh eyes, becoming a malleable object even after they’ve been fired. 

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