Helen Levi on her trip to Islay


One of the best parts of my job is getting to connect with other artists and small businesses. I find inspiration for my own work from a variety of mediums and materials.

What resonated with me about Bruichladdich about was their incredible attention to all of the materials that go into their end product, and their commitment to overseeing every step of the process of their production. As a one-person company, I literally have a hand in each phase of a piece coming to life in my Brooklyn studio, but I was less familiar with the materials that go into my work.

Four wheelthrown tumblers with slip from Colorado clayBruichladdich whisky is made on a tiny island called Islay, off the coast of Scotland. I visited Islay last summer after just returning from a fact finding mission about my own materials– a drive to New Mexico from New York with stops along the way to visit the factories that produce my clay and glazes, to collect raw clay from the dirt with the hopes of processing it myself, and to visit studios of potters all over the country to see what regional differences there are in a small pottery company like my own.

I was inspired to make a body of work exploring three types of whisky drinking vessels: a tumbler, a bottle, and a Quaich– a handled bowl used to drink whisky in the 17th century. The resulting pieces were influenced by all the different landscapes I visited– from the sandy dry deserts of the American southwest, to the lush green and brown mountains of Islay.

I spent many months testing the dirt samples I collected, trying to find a way to incorporate them into my pieces, and was able to formulate both glazes and slips using samples from Colorado, Detroit, and Ohio. The natural clays I used have only subtle visual differences despite being from different states; in Islay different varieties of barley have various effects on the taste of the whisky. Through this collaboration, I’ve learned a great deal about my own materials, and reflected on the steps of producing a piece of pottery; which are reflected in the body of work here. – Helen

A collection of fifty Bruichladdich-inspired ceramic pieces by Helen Levi will be available at Primary Essentials in Brooklyn NY from 29th April 2015


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