Aileen Lee meets Ruth Power: Artist, ceramicist and founder of DANU Ceramics
What’s your background?
I graduated from the National College of Art and Design with a degree in Ceramics in 2011. The work I made then was entirely different to my current work — one-off, highly detailed sculptures which reflected my political beliefs and took months to complete.
I exhibited my work extensively and got a great response, but after a year I realised it wasn’t possible to make a full-time living from it. In 2013, I embarked on an amazing business course with the Ignite Academy, and 2014 was all about research and product development. In 2015, DANU Ceramics was launched.
What’s a typical work day like for you?
I start off every day answering any emails and doing admin. Then I begin production. Each making day can be different — one day could be non-stop casting; another could be jewellery making, or glazing, or applying the gold lustre, or finishing and refining pieces before they are fired. Most days I will be loading or unloading the kiln. I tend to work at night.
What is a recent/favourite project you have worked on?
I’ve been working on a collection of high-end pendant lights made from rustic black clay and 22k-gold lustre, hanging from a handcrafted leather and brass chain. It is a collaboration with a Hollywood-based contemporary furniture designer, Thomas Hayes.
He recently opened another gallery in Tribeca, Manhattan, which I will be visiting in April. We are also collaborating on smaller pieces for the high-end, luxury gift market. I’m excited to see where this will go, as well as entering into a whole different type of market on a new continent.
What’s your design style?
I like to play around with different styles, but generally my work is a combination of organic and elegant that displays well in both rustic and urban settings. Many of my bowls are from slip-cast porcelain. This gives a very light and refined look. The 22k gold lustre on the rim is the ideal finishing touch that makes each bowl pop — giving them an ethereal, luxurious yet handmade aesthetic when combined with the porcelain and translucent glazes.
What inspires your work?
My tagline is: Made in Ireland, inspired by a journey. Much of my work is inspired by my travels and I have ranges inspired by Rajasthan (India), Lombok (Indonesia) and Istanbul (Turkey).
My gold decal work, using ferns, insects and feathers, was informed by the Victorian naturalist, Alfred Russel Wallace, who hugely contributed to the theory of evolution. It is my own contemporary take on the pages of his sketchbooks.
What’s your favourite trend at the moment?
I love how people are really appreciating hand-crafted pieces, as in, pieces that actually look handmade and not sterile and factory-produced. Although I think this is more of a movement than a trend — a kind of backlash against mass-produced items.
What’s your most treasured possession?
My most useful possession is my kiln! In terms of treasured items, I’ve collected pieces from each country I’ve visited, such as vintage posters and prints, lanterns, ceramics, brassware, textiles, miniature paintings, stone/woodwork and masks. I see these as one possession — a collection of artefacts that reflect my life so far.
Who would be your favourite designer or style inspiration?
I love the work of artisans that I’ve seen whilst travelling. I visited Maison et Objet in Paris last September and found a brand called Chuk Palu by Rahim Walizada, my favourite in the whole show. He is a major leader of a new movement in Afghanistan that seeks to bring folkloric craft tradition into the realm of high and contemporary art.
What would be a dream project for you to work on?
I’d love to do a residency somewhere in far-east Asia, where ceramic art, and especially porcelain works, are revered.
Have you any design tips for us?
In a world with rising landfills and unethical labour practices, it makes sense to buy products for your home that are of quality materials, ethically made, long-lasting and with a compelling story. If you can, create some of your own decor through on/offline classes and upcycling. This is an infallible way to create an interesting space that is not only your own but fills you with contentment.