Plant Outfits

Studio visits with ceramic artists,
to help you dress up your plants


Aviva Rowley

To get started, can you share with us a bit of your background?

Growing up my mom had a kiln in our house, and she taught me how to play with clay at a really early age. And my dad is a painter. So I grew up in a household where we were always making things.

I went to art school, and hadn't done pottery for a really long time. When I was in college, I started working for this florist, Emily Thompson, and she was an incredible sculptor. And the more I worked in the field, I got really interested in plants and started be disgruntled with the selection of pots you can find easily looking on eBay. I wanted somethings that were a little more interesting than the boring terra cotta pots.

So how did you get back into pottery again?

I don't know why I even got into pottery again, but it just happened. My mom started going to this studio that was a block down the street from my apartment, and she encouraged me to get into it, and I've been hooked.

What’s the process been like since you got started?

I really like that I can now build these things that I want, and that hopefully other people want. I had this idea for the hanging saucers, actually a really long time ago and was just sitting on it cause I didn't know how to build it.

And then I just kinda kept experimenting, I'm still at the stage where everything is an experiment, and I hope that never changes. Even if I get better at it, I’m hoping that I'm always constantly playing.

Does one idea lead you to the next thing?

Totally, I was making this one style planter, with these segmented tiers, and then realized it sorta looked cool upside down. That's when I started doing the reversible vases and planters, and thought it was a good idea cause — what if you needed to repot your plants, you could go from the small side, and flip it over to re-pot it in the larger size.

Walk us through some of types of planters you're making?

The hanging saucers, was this problem that I've had for a very long time. I think living in New York, you don't have that much space, and when you collect plants like I do, you eventually have to build up, instead of having everything on the floor. I was making these macrame plant hangers, and they're such a pain in the ass cause when you water them it would spill all over the floor, or you'd have to take them out and water them in the bathtub. With these hanging saucers, you could put any pot in it, you can mix and match with different pots and plants, and can water them directly in the saucer while it's hanging. It's really important to me for an object to be beautiful and useful.

How do you feel your pieces are functional and beautiful?

I think that I always try to live my life that way. It's a way of living where you pick what you want to surround yourself with. Things that are beautiful and functional, there's something really sexy about something that works and is well made, and I mean obviously it's a huge thing now a days, people are getting way more into these artisanal handmade things.

You're making ceramics, but I’m curious if you’re making them for plants or people? Is the plant your customer or is the person, who are you serving first?

I gotta say both, right? Well it's funny cause I make them mostly for myself, and that goes from the process of making them and the desire to have them. But of course they're for my plants too, and hopefully other people like them enough that they'd want to put their plants in them in their homes, I think that's a huge compliment if it's worthy of their plant.

Do you think a certain form, glaze, or attribute of what you're creating matches a specific plant personality? Or are you designing objects that are universal for all sorts of house plants?

I think both things happen. But, for example this hanging pot, this plant couldn't really grow up, but it's doing this really beautiful thing where it's falling out of the side, it's a little too happy, but I think that happens when you find a plant a good home, and that's the pot and location where it's sitting, you know. And that's when plants do well, when they're happy, you can tell that they are happy.

A lot of the time, when I kill plants, it's when they don't tell me what to do. But a lot of my plants get droopy, and I think “oh shit I gotta water them now”, and then they'll perk up. Or they'll start losing their color and you give them more sun.

The plants I do well with are the ones that actually talk to me like that. Like a cat that reminds you it needs to eat. And the plants that I kill, are the ones that are doing great, but all of a sudden one day they're gone.

How do you feel when that happens?

I feel terrible. I still have this stub of a plant that died, because I refused to give up, and thought maybe it'd come back, but I can't get rid of this one completely dead little branch.

What's the balance between tradition and what you're doing now?

My parents were hippies, and that's how I was raised, in the 90s. I feel like this is a common experience with our age group.

My family and history, and wishing I was from another time period. All of those things, my family and my history. Flower arranging, gardening, pottery, these are all things that have been around for ever. Even the zine thing, it's pretty grassroots. I let things happen naturally with the plant club, and word of mouth. Maybe it's getting away from the work, technology, and New York.

What have you learned from plants?

Oh so much, first of all, when I got my cat. I was twenty years old, but all of a sudden I have this living things that I'm caring for, and it made me more aware, responsible, and all of these things. I feel the same way about plants, caring for something that is living, and trying to get it so it doesn't die. That's kinda morbid comparing to pets. But it's an active thing you have to do. I always think about whose going to take care of my plants when I'm going to travel (and the cat!).

And moving across country, you don't want to just give them to someone. You want to pass them along to someone in a more conscious way. Why is that? Why do we care? I care about all of my plants, and that's why I like sharing them, and giving clippings to other people, and sorta growing this legacy of the plant family. Maybe it's a very masculine thing, wanting to spread my seed. They've taught me a lot.

My mom bought me this thing, it's a german tool like tongues, on either side is a brush. I have to show this to you. It's for cleaning plants. It's so weird. The fact that I would have a plant duster!


Aviva Rowley is a ceramicist, artist, and florist from Brooklyn, New York. She graduated from Cooper Union in 2011 with a BFA. Aviva started Keiki Club and her pieces are available on Wet Vessels.


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