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Ceramicist Lindsey Hampton

Words by Sara Harowitz

  • Photos courtesy of Lindsey Hampton.

    Photos courtesy of Lindsey Hampton.

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In the beginning of her ceramics career, Lindsey Hampton made pieces that she didn’t even want. Instead of creating works that she could see in her personal space, she seemed to channel the personality of someone else. Slowly but surely, though, in a case of life imitating art, the ceramics began to inform her own taste.

“It’s kind of funny because there was a while where a lot of the stuff I was making, I wouldn’t have wanted in my own home,” she says, sitting at a table in her small Vancouver studio. “It was sort of as if I was making things for somebody who was a bolder person than I am, and then I think I have sort of caught up to it. And now there’s colour in my home.”

Hampton, a graphic designer by trade, has made a name for herself with her instantly recognizable style of ceramics: soft curves, hard angles, textured speckles, and perhaps most of all, playful pastels. “That’s my favourite part is the surface design, and that’s probably coming directly from a graphic design background,” she reflects, “but I think it’s the most fun.” This foray into colourful clay began when she was working full-time on design projects and she decided she needed to branch out into something new—something tangible. “At the time that I started doing ceramics I was living in a tiny apartment and doing freelance, so my bed was two feet away from my desk, I was just there all the time,” she recalls. “I really wanted to do something else and try other things.” So her parents got her ceramic lessons for Christmas, and the rest is aesthetically-pleasing history.

And while she still works as a designer and most often defines herself as such, Hampton has become more known for her Instagram-worthy ceramics.

From white bowls with cow-style spots in purple and blue, to olive-green mugs with swirling handles, to vases that are half-pink and half-blue, Hampton’s work is whimsical and imaginative, but still grounded in reality. Everyone from The New York Times to Architectural Digest to Bon Appétit has taken notice, and it’s no wonder why; using a Lindsey Hampton piece, whether it’s a mug or a teapot, elevates an everyday experience. Using something handmade has that effect on us. “It does something to you, for sure,” she acknowledges. “It’s hard to say totally what it is, but there’s some kind of chemical connection. I feel like someone could probably write their dissertation on it.” It’s different to eat pasta off of a plate when you know who made it; it’s somehow more visceral and more engaging. At the end of the day, it’s just more enjoyable.

As for her own enjoyment, Hampton’s process teeters between pragmatic intention and pure artistic whim. “I’d say 30 per cent of the time I know I’m going to make this specific thing, and sometimes that just comes out of a functional need,” she explains. Alternatively, she adds, “a lot of the times I’ll just sit down and I’ll cut off a chunk of clay and sit down and just feel what comes out of it.” Those pieces are often the most rewarding for her. “You’re always sort of working against clay and sometimes it’s really nice to work with it, and when you work with it,” she says, “sometimes it kind of tells you what to make.”

By listening to the clay, Hampton has developed an intimate relationship with it; ceramics started as a hobby for her, and she is keen to not lose that magic spark. So while she does sell pieces online and in boutiques, and takes certain commissions (such as a mug collaboration with Vancouver’s lovely Small Victory bakery), she also admits to be pulling back a bit from the commercial angle. “In the past year I’ve started slowing down on the production side of it and attempting to go back to the beginning and doing it more for fun, just because I feel like you have to make the decision to either hustle or just have a nice time,” she says with a laugh. “So right now I’m sort of on the nice time end of things.”