"DO WHAT YOU LOVE. KNOW YOUR OWN BONE; GNAW AT IT, BURY IT, UNEARTH IT AND GNAW IT STILL." - HENRY DAVID THOREAU
When British-born, New York-based ceramist Romy Northover felt she was losing touch with her creativity and overthinking her work, she made a vow to get back to basics. The result – her Freedom collection, which features terracotta planters that are stocked all over the world and have a raw, enduring beauty – reminded her that “it’s always the ones you feel are really true to your heart that people respond to.”
“There’s a thing with ceramics,” she says, from her studio in New York from where she runs her brand, NO., “where you can get caught up in it and end up destroying a pot by spending too much time on it. You kind of exhaust the material.”
Describing a sense of “tightening up” in her process, Northover started work on the Freedom collection as a route to reconnecting with her inspiration.
“That collection is a lot about liberty and feeling. It’s the spontaneity of it, really, and the joy of making it. That’s what I never want to lose in my work.”
Northover’s work is certainly joyous, and brings to ceramics a lightness of touch and simplicity that render her objects timeless and covetable. Growing up in England, Northover was encouraged by her parents to pursue creative avenues, and first fell in love with ceramics in high school, where she trained in the European style with British ceramist Celia Allen. She later enrolled at Goldsmiths, the famous London art college, but ended up pursuing visual arts. She waitressed and did odd jobs, spent chunks of time living in Hong Kong, Venice and Berlin and exhibited her work across Europe, but always felt some fundamental piece was missing.
“Then when I moved to New York, everything changed,” she says.
“I had to really examine what I wanted to do, and I didn’t feel that I was on the right path. I had always said to my husband I wanted to go back to ceramics and he was like, ‘just do it’. It took me two years to get my act together, find a studio and go for it 100 percent. Part of me was a little bit scared because I always loved it so much that I wanted to keep it as a special thing. Then when I got started and things were going well, I was like, ‘ah, this is what it feels like to be on the right path’. Before that, it was a very different story – things weren’t going my way because I was looking in the wrong direction. It’s kind of romantic, really.”
NO. is today a respected ceramics brand, beloved for its simplicity, elegance and beauty, and has partnered with Cereal to deliver a unique, collaborative collection. “I think Cereal is concise and simple but with an aesthetic you can relate to on an emotional level,” she says. “The collaboration stemmed from that, really.”
Northover worked closely with the Cereal team, trawling through images and ceramics designs, from Scandinavian to Japanese, that would stoke her inspiration.
“It’s about beauty in function and form,” she says of the collection. “I’m interested in how things feel, how things work as well as how they look. We were thinking a lot about what these pieces would be used for, as well as the colour palette, which is grey, white and those kind of tones in between.”
She also paid close attention to textures, creating an organic, matte finish on the outside with a striking glaze on the inside and, as ever, working to imbue her pieces with a weightlessness.
“The shape I did is a design I worked on specifically for Cereal,” she says. “Ceramics can be heavy materials, but I like my work to be light. A vessel is kind of open, so I like to have the air around it to lift the piece. The angle makes the cups look like they’re floating off the floor, rather than having this heavy direct contact with the table,” she pauses and laughs. “Can you tell I mused on it for a long time? I spend a lot of time thinking about things before I do them. That’s how this manifested.”