Nicole Aquillano Ceramics - Boston, USA

What lead you to leave your former career and take up a full time career in ceramics?

I realized that life was too short to not love what I do everyday! I just knew there was a part of me that would never be satisfied until I gave my passion a shot!

How did you used your childhood home to develop your thesis at Rhode Island School of design?

It was a natural progression coming from 2 years of grad. school, working my butt off making pots! I was constantly inspired by architecture, but using the inspiration abstractly, drawing patterns of lines and dots on my work. Then I had a critique where someone told me to try using what I was referencing more specifically. So I started actually drawing the architecture I was looking at – using my photographs. I’ve always been very connected to my work and using my own photographs I think helps with this connectivity. It’s like a little piece of myself and my past goes on to live within each piece. And I was trying to think of what would really show this the strongest for the thesis show.  So I started drawing the place that I felt I had the strongest connection to – my childhood home.

I’ve always been incredibly nostalgic – and around the same time I also developed the runny glaze – and it really just came together.  I can remember the head of my department coming in and seeing the first batch of thesis work – and saying – OH! So this is what you’ve been trying to say!

Can you discuss the colour of your work and why blue is so prominent.

I like the idea that my work is a contemporary take on delftware. Growing up I always admired blue and white pottery.  It is also kind of bluish-black, and I’ve never really been someone to wear a lot of color, so I think it also has a lot to do with my work being so connected to myself.


Discuss the design of bridges in you ‘Bridge’ collection

Which bridges

I chose bridges from some major cities to expand my reach. I like the idea that referencing specific places helps strengthen that whole idea of connectivity. I am fascinated by the ability of place to define and connect us.


How many more will you add to the collection

Time will tell!

How many have come from requests?

I have done quite a few by request – I love the challenge of drawing something new! I also do custom work for galleries and shops – I love creating exclusive custom collections so that their customers can leave with a reminder of their visit!

Can you explain the on the technique you to create the drawings on your clay?

It is known as mishima – an ancient slip-inlay technique. I do the drawing with a  knife and then inlay an underglaze into the clay.


Expand on our comment, “I create a story you can hold in your hand forever”

I use images from my own past experiences – or in the case of custom work, from someone elses. I like thinking of my work as a way to memorialize these memories forever into a tangible work of art.

Explain your studio space and the importance of having artists as neighbours?

It’s a great spot in the city of Boston – Fort Point. It has a great neighborhood feel and I do love running into neighbors and hearing what they are working on, what they have lined up next! It’s a very supportive community and we have open studios twice a year!


Your work is about the need for human connections, discuss.

It’s a basic human need  – I like the idea that through making my work I can connect with someone and elicit a memory from their past.


But really my love of memories associated with objects is why I make what I do.

Like many people, I’ve always been a collector – I find it’s a good way to hold onto the past.  And I am an incredibly nostalgic person, and am often overcome by the loss we encounter in life…again and again. So for me, each collection of work that I make – using imagery from my past experiences – is a way to create a concrete connection to the past and to satisfy an emotional longing for what once was.


How does your photography collection influence your ceramic work?

I draw inspiration from my past experiences – I like the idea that I can create a tangible reminder of the past. I work from photographs and free hand the image into the wet porcelain clay with a knife. Then I inlay a dark underglaze directly into the clay, fire it once, and then apply a clear glaze, and fire the piece again. The clear glaze pulls the underglaze from the drawing and creates a downward flow; blurring the image to make it look like a faded memory.

You make many custom pieces can you take one or two and give us some insight to the commission and your response (work)?

I love making custom work! I love that I can make someone else’s memories into a tangible reminder of their past. It becomes something they can hold onto, and incorporate into their daily life.

One of my favorite things to draw is someone’s childhood home. Here is the photograph:

house          And the finished piece:house plate

Another recent commission was a platter for a local ceramics organization, Mudflat. It was their 45th anniversary – and the husband of the head of the organization commissioned a platter with the building on it, which used to be an old theatre, along with the iconic staircase on the back.


Here is the finished piece, front and back:


Can you explain your signature and the marks you have on each piece and their meaning for the future?

I sign each piece by hand. For custom work I often date the piece or write an inscription if the client requests it – just another reminder of the past, inlayed into a reminder of the past J


Contact details.

 Nicole Aquillano, Boston, USA

Interview by Deborah Blakeley, April, 2016