There’s something rare about Romy and the way she sees the world. It’s the tenderness she recognizes in everything, that translates seamlessly into her works – shaping the refined ceramics for which she is known. She draws you into the impossibility of something so beautiful, so fragile yet functional. As in all things Romy, her works call on you to go deeper and consider with intent.
After moving from London to New York in 2010, Romy opened her custom ceramics studio No. Since then, her life and work have continued to grow. From tea rituals and creating sustainable art, we visited Romy in her home to learn more.
How do you start your days?
What is your process, to get into a creative headspace?
Ha! It can be a bit of a ride sometimes because, for me, it is quite compulsive. I do mini tea ceremonies for myself. I have a delicate oolong tea, a little pot and a bowl. I break a bit of incense, light it and just sit on the floor a while, drinking tea and contemplating until it burns down. I used to smoke cigarettes and this is something I loved about them - this time for contemplation while feeling things within your body. I quit smoking a long time ago and tea replaces that mood, that ritual. I’m a kinesthetic learner and I like movement and sensation when I think.
Tell us about your art.
Making art is my way of communicating but it’s also my way of appropriating myself into the world around me. Minimalism acts as a sort of prescribed order for me but there is something untamable, always present. I oscillate between wildness and restraint, raw and refined, so I think of it as more of an essentialist aesthetic, an interplay between binary oppositions.
How are ceramics so different from other art mediums?
Ceramics is as old as civilization. It’s so ancient it’s almost unfathomable. This, to me, is amazing. I find it something so basic and beautiful that binds humanity with the earth. It’s the true representation of harmony.
What was your path to becoming a ceramist?
I was born into a creative family. I don’t remember not being involved with the arts… charcoal drawing, paint, clays. But I was also fortunate to go to a school that took ceramics seriously as a subject with exams, etcetera. I then went on to do a rigorously conceptual BA in Fine Art at Goldsmiths University London. My 20s were very exploratory. I moved to NYC in 2010 and in 2012 started my brand, No., specializing in custom ceramics. No. is expanding into more mixed media now and this has given me the platform to do whatever I need to do, knowing that I will always be communicating my ancient future style.
How has your worked progressed, and how does it continue to evolve?
It’s always changing, morphing, moving. This drive is always going to move into unchartered territories. It can be very hard work but that’s also what I love, cycles of exploration. I’m progressing into larger projects, some conceptual, some more commercial. I’m really getting into digging clays and experimenting with primitive firing techniques. I need to challenge myself and find ways to go deeper.
What do you think is most challenging about being an artist?
To date, what is the piece you have been most proud of?
For me it’s more about the process as opposed to the result. So right now I am most interested in a biodegradable installation I am doing for a boutique hotel in Portugal this spring. The concept is that the guests can participate in the artwork, have the experience or just choose to observe. I will be making things out of clay dug from the earth and letting them melt back into the ground with the rain. I did a site-specific installation in Marfa, Texas for my friend Kara Town’s new site Object Of that is launching this year. Sustainability and the environment are so important. I need to demonstrate a kind of unity. I see this storm blowing up around me and I have to hold onto the Earth for answers.
You work with brands. How much of what you create for them is an interpretation of their vision, and how much is purely you?
I work with brands on capsule collections, but also as a consultant. I look at how to translate the deep essence of a brand and communicate it to anyone. It's more about the human experience, how we live physically and mentally. It all travels through me and there has to be space for the serendipity of collaboration. In a contemporary world we can use imagery and design in a similar way to how primitive art forms have been used over the centuries. Visual images and objects are powerful and inclusive - they can override language barriers and cut across all kinds of cultural divisions. This is my process. Opening up the concept, filtering down, then building it. It’s a lot about trained intuition. Intuition is hard to define, so I guess you have to prove it!
Who are other artists you admire, and why?
Cy Twombly, Iggy Pop, Jean-Michel Basquiat. The primitive arts. Because they are all crazy beautiful!
How do you think art informs fashion or vice versa?
There is a lot of crossover. I have heard people say that fashion is frivolous, but I think it holds a lot of information about culture. Good and bad. Same with art. Things happen in time for a reason and I find this extremely interesting. Life, art, fashion has so much to do with context. I also feel as an artist that my body is my tool, so for me how the body is adorned or used in performance and/or production is very poignant.
Tell us about your style.
I have simplified a lot until I pretty much have a uniform now. Jeans, white shirt or t-shirt, and cashmere jumper. Or a workman’s jumpsuit, if I’m working with clay. I literally wear my clothes until they are threadbare!
What did you wear for this shoot?
The styles I chose are simple and have a masculine cut with a feminine feel. The drape of the Frances De Lourdes t-shirts is so elegant, so it’s just the tee paired with some A.P.C. boy’s jean hand-me-downs, my husband’s old Acne Max Cash, and my white Acne white high waist jeans.
Has your personal style changed over time?
When I was a kid, I flat out refused to wear dresses. In my 20s I was switching up my look and figuring it all out, partying and dressing for the night. Now it’s back to basics. I need clothes that I can move in, run around in, feel comfortable in.
In art, in fashion and in other areas of your life, what are the things that inspire you most?
Feelings - both in the sensory touch and in the internal. I have visceral reactions to things I see, and then I just know.
And what is the best advice to live by?
Listen to what you feel. It’s all information.
By Neada Jane
Photography by Bec Lorrimer