Today on the journal we get to know local ceramicist and friend of Phosphene, Elena Noll. Hear about her creative process, how she started working with clay, and what her ideal time spent recharging and resting looks like --- then join us as we host Elena for an intimate artist reception during First Friday's May 5 from 5-8PM at the shop.
Elena at home with a selection of her ceramic work.
What does this season of life look like for you?
The past few months have been all over the place! I’ve recently moved from Richmond to back home in Fredericksburg, and now I'm getting ready to move in with my boyfriend in Charlottesville. Life has consisted of a lot of temporaries while I try to figure out where I really want to land. While I'm waiting for the next move I'm working full time at a coffee shop most days and visiting Charlottesville on my days off. I'm trying to treat my creative work as a second job so I spend pretty much every free second working on something. Right now, I'm working on pieces early in the morning before work and then late at night as soon as I get home. I’m very tired most of the time but it's all so worth it.
Tell us a little about your creative process and background in working with clay.
I started working at the front desk of a pottery studio my freshman year of college, and had no experience with clay. I worked there for months before I decided to take a class on the wheel, a week before the world shut down in 2020. I ended up taking a bag of clay home with me and spent all of the quarantine teaching myself the basics of handbuilding. I think I loved the journey of figuring out the process on my own so much that taking a class never really crossed my mind again. I spent the first few years experimenting a lot. I made a lot of heads and figures and random limbs, all of which my mom proudly displays around her home. I’m definitely forever experimenting, but in the past year, I've begun to find my flow and kind of figure out my style.
My creative process Is pretty impulsive. I feel like I have an endless mental list of all of the things I want to create, so when I sit down to make something I kind of just go for it. The only time I really plan and sketch out is when I'm halfway through a piece and have no idea where to take it. Then I'll start scribbling out different possibilities and seeing what I like most. The list of ideas feels never ending sometimes, which isn't a bad problem to have at all, but it can feel overwhelming. Like I feel this sense of urgency to make everything right now before I run out of time somehow, but I think that just is a part of my process at this point. Because of that urgent feeling, I tend to create in a frenzy. I'll start four different pieces at the same time and switch back and forth working on them all day, trying to bring to life the idea I have in my head.
Could you share with us any specific works of art, literature, music, etc that have been inspiring to you recently? (Or/Also - any memories, travels, movements, playlists)
My lifestyle and what I hope it evolves into inspires a lot of my work right now. I'm really into the idea of a slower life, and being more connected to the things I consume. I want to one day learn to build my own cobb style home, grow my own food, make my own furniture and clothes- and if I can't make it, I hope to know a fellow creator who can. I dream of being a part of a self sustaining community like that. My work in sculpture feels like a sort of first step into that world. Right now I’m making a lot of mugs and bowls and little decorative pieces for the next house, and hoping that this practice will help me provide for myself on a larger scale in the future.
Can you describe your workspace?
My bedroom floor is my work table, and it's chaos!! Things are always being knocked over or my cat is rolling in a pile of dried clay scraps, or I'm tracking a dust footprint throughout the house. I’m working on having a work space more than 5 feet away from my bed in the next apartment. Things are definitely changing as I'm spending more and more time creating, I'm trying to clean up my space a lot more and have it be more of an intentional work area. I bought an air purifier recently after years of inhaling and basically living in clay dust, and it was a total upgrade.
Is there something you tend to collect?
I tend to collect a lot of hand me down decor. So many wall hangings from mom, or floor pillows and plants from grandma or books - gifted from dad and stolen from my sister. A lot of my furniture is the same stuff that I bought for my first apartment at 18 off of facebook marketplace. I love these little touches of character, they bring so much warmth into all of the spaces I've lived in. I feel like i only need my plants, books and floor pillows to make any space feel like home.
How would you choose to spend alone time if/when you get it? What does an ideal day of rest and recharging for you include?
I love being alone, days where I have no plans at all are my favorite. The best part of my weeks right now are my Fridays off work. I wake up at 7, make coffee, and go and sit on the front porch for an hour. That routine has become so special and meditative, I rarely skip a day. It’s getting warm again and I've been spending hours at the river, sometimes bringing some clay with me, sometimes just stopping by for lunch and a sit. I love the grocery store for a hangout and can stroll the isles forever. My go to when stopping by is watermelon, pasta, and red wine. I don't think any of that goes together taste wise but I'm a creature of habit and now it's just what I do. If i feeling extra good i'll do a little sunset bike ride. I like to end days like this having dinner outside, working on a few pieces, and a little evening yoga flow.