Photo: Cara Rufenacht.

Ceramics Monthly: Why do you often picture work paired with food on your online sales page?

Nicole Aquillano: The goal of the actively staged images included on my website ( is to show that my work can easily be used in everyday life. I often make work with custom imagery for clients, so the pieces become uniquely personal narratives reminiscent of their past experiences and memories.

Sometimes clients put their custom pieces on display, never to be touched again. The work is set on a shelf for its narrative value, rather than incorporated into cupboards for use in everyday life.

For me, using handmade pots is most of the fun of owning them. Every time I use a handmade pot, I’m brought back to thoughts of the maker, how I acquired the pot, who I was with, and where I was in my life at that moment. Functional, usable artwork is a fantastic way to regularly recall moments from one’s life. The more that you interact with each piece, the more memories it embodies.

Displaying pots with custom images sparks memories of past experiences, but using them serves as a tangible connection to an unreachable past.

CM: Are these images more successful in engaging your audience than those you have used in the past?

NA: These images are much more effective in engaging my audience than standard studio photos. Although the studio images are great for showing the details of my work, they fail to engage the imagination of the user and get them to think on a practical level why they might want this piece in their lives.

CM: When staging images, do you have foods in mind that start to tell a story or help your pieces stand out?

NA: Most of my pieces are made and named with a specific use in mind, so I am interested in illustrating these uses in the photos. Through years of selling my work, I’ve learned that people want to be advised on the specific use of each piece. They often ask how I personally use each piece. A small dish has infinite possibilities, but an oil dip dish has a specific purpose that someone can quickly understand. A small cup often confounds the customer, but call it a whiskey cup and they instantly have images of a comforting drink drifting through their head. These recommendations spark the imagination of the customer so that they can begin to imagine the pieces incorporated into their lives.

To capture these images, I have worked with a professional photographer, Cara Rufenacht. Before our first shoot, we had an in-depth conversation about food. I had just given birth to my daughter days before and she was pregnant at the time, so needless to say, we were both hungry. We spoke about our love of specific foods and the possibilities of color. I was interested in using green foods to offset the bluish-black of my work without contrasting it.

Topics: Ceramic Artists