side hustles

Grub Street Staff Writer Nikita Richardson’s ‘Kill Your Darlings’ Approach to Pottery

Photo: Nikita Richardson

For every issue of New York’s internal company newsletter, “The New York Note,” we put a spotlight on talented New York Media employees and the creative things they’re doing when they’re not at work. This month, we spoke to Grub Street staff writer Nikita Richardson (@nikitarbk), who spends her days writing about New York City’s vibrant restaurant industry and her weekends spinning the most beautiful ceramics money can buy. With items available like hanging planters, carved oil cruets, multicolor water pitchers, and more, why spend $23.99 on a large Yankee Candle or $60 on a tiny Diptyque candle when you can spend $22 on one that will instantly become a timeless piece of dresser décor?

First off, I’d like to congratulate you on your new collection — which is out today! How long have you been doing ceramics, and what first drew you to the medium?

Thank you! I took my first wheel-throwing class in June 2018, but my preoccupation with ceramics began when I was an assistant editor at Bon Appétit. I worked on front-of-book and did a lot of shopping stories, which involved calling in these really beautiful ceramics, objects like plates, cups, and donabe pots. Also, my sister’s been making ceramics for a few years now and I wanted to spend more time with her, so I joined her studio. It works out because she’s a hand-builder (very little water involved) and I throw on the wheel (water everywhere). Plus, ceramics can be so expensive and I figured I could easily make some of the stuff I liked.

What are your favorite items to make?

Lately, I’ve been really enjoying making hanging planters, and I plan on making more utensil holders and spoon rests. Basically, I like making kitchenware, which isn’t a surprise at all, given my job. One of my favorite creations so far is this tilted vase that I’m having a really hard time re-creating because it was born of a mistake. I’ll figure it out, I’m sure.

What are the hardest/most-time-consuming pieces to make?

One of my teachers said the most difficult thing to make is a toilet, which is the ultimate ceramic item. But second to that, it’s mugs or anything with a handle. You have to attach the handle at just the right time or it’ll fall off. And yet, people LOVE mugs and think they’re so simple. Nope. Opposite.

Your pieces have really interesting color compositions. What inspires your ceramics? Where do you go for inspiration?

Well, the boring answer is that we have a limited number of glazes in the studio and so I just use the ones I like the most. The more interesting response is that I like matte colors and especially blue-green, orange-brown, and white. I like a classic look. That said, I’ve found a pink glaze that I really like and I’ve recently gotten into marbled pieces (mixing two different color clays) as well as geometric tape designs. As for inspiration, the answer is 60 percent Instagram, 40 percent late-night epiphanies, and 10 percent potters I know in real life.  I learned so much from watching process videos online over and over and over again and practicing what I saw at the studio for about ten hours per week in the early days. I still comb pottery Instagram for inspiration almost every night before bed.

Do you feel like there’s any overlap between your day job writing about the restaurant world for Grub Street and your ceramics?

I’ve definitely taken a “kill your darlings” approach to pottery. If I don’t like how I threw a piece or how I trimmed it, I just throw it out and move on. (Before it’s fired in the kiln, clay can be recycled and reused.) I’ve also realized that every mistake can be turned into an opportunity. A piece you don’t like can be broken into small pieces and then used for testing out glaze combinations or you can split a piece in half with a wire and see exactly where you’re having trouble creating thin walls. And finally, I’ve learned that progress happens in fits and starts, not big breakthroughs. Every week, I get marginally better, and it’s so rewarding.

Who are some of your favorite ceramists right now? Are there any ceramists we should follow on Instagram other than you?

My favorites are Not Work Related, Helen Levi, Hea Ceramics, Pawena Studio, Muluni, SVEN Ceramics, San San Ceramics, Object-Matter Ceramic, Sissy Moon Ceramics, and Takeawei Ceramics. I aspire to be even half as good as these people (mostly women!) one day.

Where can we go if we want to shop your new collection and follow your ceramics on Instagram? and @seelineceramics

Better Have a Side Hustle: Nikita Richardson’s Ceramics