Artist and ceramicist Romy Northover uses the term ancient future to describe her style of work. Ancient represents the primitive nature of material – the earth’s clay and the way in which humans have always used vessels for food and art. Future refers to the permanency of ceramics, which often outlive the artist and leave an archive for future generations.
Having been born into a creative family in East Sussex on England’s southeast coast, Northover was always interested in art. After receiving her BA in Fine Art from Goldsmiths, University of London, she did a variety of jobs and traveled: as a graphic designer in Hong Kong, working in fashion and cosmetics in London, visiting Italy on a grant and, later, to Berlin to participate in the city’s flourishing art scene.
In 2010, Northover chose New York City as her home and started her studio, No., at Togei Kyoshitsu in 2012. After having worked in other mediums, Romy has returned to ceramics full-time. Traditionally trained in European ceramics, she is currently using the Japanese techniques of Kinuneri, Tebineri, and Rokuro.
The Studio Visit
I met Romy on a warm morning in August 2015 in Long Island City, New York. She welcomed me into the 4,500 square foot Sculpture Space NYC, an artist-run ceramics center dedicated to sculptors, potters and designers. She joined this shared workspace just two weeks prior to my visit – a stunning environment with 22’ high ceilings painted all white and filled with natural light – after she outgrew her previous studio in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.
Northover believes in routine and has structured her personal rituals to support her art making process. She arrives at her studio early each weekday morning, despite the hour-long commute from her home in Park Slope, Brooklyn to Long Island City. Once she begins her studio day at 9am, she is focused until she leaves around 5pm. She says that this framework helps her do her best work and has noticed that, during the times that she’s been out of balance with her routine and body’s natural rhythms, her artwork has suffered. While life in New York City doesn’t often include nature, Romy finds it here and there – in her garden apartment or in visits to Prospect Park. To her, the city makes up for its lack of natural inspiration with its energy and serendipity
Clay – stoneware, porcelain, and gritty sculpture clay – are humble, earthy materials that Northover says she never gets tired of. We talked about the the human instinct towards tactile material in the digital age and Romy feels an heightened awareness towards the realness of her craft. She also makes it sounds simple: “It’s all about muscle memory,” she said of doing pottery. Of course, saying something simply and the act of doing something as skillfully as she does are two different things entirely.
Here is a visual look at her ceramic process – from preparing the clay (known as wedging) to throwing on the wheel, the first firing, glazing, another firing – and finally to her finished pieces.￼
I admire Romy’s work aesthetically, but I was also inspired by her personal depth and thoughtful nature.
As conceptual as ancient future may sound, I really like that the it’s rooted in humility and acknowledges ceramics as an age-old traditional art form. Her work expresses an optimism for the future as she brings this heritage craft into a contemporary time and place – one in which artists can shape new traditions of their own making.