Ceramic Curiosity: VRUWINK

“VRUWINK is a curated way of life rooted in the belief there should be no separation of life and art.”

Nicola Vruwink is the mind behind the magic ceramics line VRUWINK. Born in a small town in Iowa, Nicola has now lived in L.A. for 12 years. She and Mouse, her rescued street savvy pup, live in Echo Park in a century-old house with adjacent studio. Having previously studied at the Penland School of Craft in North Carolina, she recently returned there for a two-month ceramic intensive. Currently, Nicola is the Director of Recruitment at Art Center College of Design and helps students prepare and perfect their portfolios. She will be at the upcoming West Coast Craft Fair - be sure to stop in!

An Interview with Nicola Vruwink

Let's start with a little background. How did you end up in ceramics?

NV: It’s in my blood. My dad is an artist and has an MFA in ceramics. I grew up with ceramics, eating off of handmade plates and drinking from handmade mugs. I even used to accompany him to “pot sales” throughout the Midwest…he wasn’t a very good salesman and let’s just say, the apple definitely did not fall far from the tree as now I participate in various craft sales/events and not always the best at peddling my wares!

My dad is/was my first instructor and mentor learning much of what I know from him. I have literally been making since quite small, early on my Christmas gifts were all handmade and I used to host sales with my best friend Dori Miller (we also nearly set the house on fire experimenting with making candles!).

I didn’t study art in college but soon after graduation it became apparent that it was my calling and I pursued an MFA, first studying in a program at the University of Iowa and continuing on to the University of Washington in Seattle. I have been exhibiting since graduation and though my work has explored many different materials, consistent throughout is a dedication to the craft and a love for the act of making. I did not specifically study ceramics but at the University of Washington I was exposed to an amazing ceramics program and was a teaching assistant for many amazing artists…Akio Takamori, Jamie Walker, Jeffrey Mitchell…I am still friends with other ceramic artists I met back there.

Currently ceramics is my number-one crush. There are plans for work in other materials but for now, my main focus is working with clay. I find it the perfect material to create sculptural forms that may also serve a function and see it as an opportunity to insert sculpture/art into our day to day lives.

Your works are bold and odd -- and let's not forget incredible -- where on earth do you come up with these ideas?

NV: Are they odd? I suppose they are…but that may just be a reflection of me and my monkey brains! The craft is also critical, so monkey brains in a well made object!

The studio is my home and I feel I am crafting characters to keep me company, creating my own little stories and worlds to entertain. I really strive to create objects that bring joy, there are far too many challenges in life and this world and I really want to provide a little respite.

Would you (kindly and briefly) take us through your creative-thinking process?

NV: My number one mantra is never stop making. Even when I feel out of ideas, I still engage with materials. I also welcome mistakes or what may seem like failures. Things that do not turn out as planned push you to reconsider or recontextualize. Humor is always important too. I take what I do very seriously, I do not take myself too seriously and hope that what I make can bring a little humor, a smile into someone’s life.

What single item of your creation is your absolute favorite -- and of course, why?

NV: Gosh, that’s like choosing a favorite child! It shifts, usually it is what I am currently working on but I am quite fond of the squiggle vases with the black stripes and the curvy vases. For a while, my doodle necklace was a constant accessory and it was really refreshing to make the doodle pieces. I am definitely channeling my teenage self and doodles from my notes.

The Doodle Necklace

The Doodle Necklace

Bonus: If we shuffled through your music collection, what artists are we likely to find?

David Bowie and Wilco tie as number ones, quickly followed by Neko Case, Lucinda Williams, The Rolling Stones, Beck, Nina Simon, Luna/Galaxy 500, the Replacements, Gillian Welch, Yo La Tengo….this really could go on forever…music really is my first love and served as an escape during my youth (I played the trumpet throughout high school and actually went to band camp). Violent Femmes made me a huge odd ball in high school, and I have been a Wilco fan since the Uncle Tupelo days.

I love the incarnation of any passion made real and music is such a venue for experiencing just this.

If you check out my other work at www.nicolavruwink.com you will find my tribute to music, particularly music from the 80’s in the form of crocheted cassette tapes, a series I competed a few years ago and still make from time to time.

Thank you Nicola! May you and your work continue to be absolutely amazing.

All images are used with permission from Nicola, taken from her tumblr page: http://vruwink.tumblr.com/