Ruby Pilven is a young ceramic artist hailing from Ballarat, and her work already spans the globe. Learning ceramic practises from her parents, Ruby has built up a portfolio of bright homewares with a distinctly fun feel.

Photos courtesy of Ruby via Eve Wilson for The Design Files.

You’re a very established artist within the ceramics field. How did you come to practice creative arts, particularly ceramic art?

Having grown up with ceramicists for parents (Janine and Peter Pilven), I’ve always been surrounded by ceramics.

I have no formal training in ceramics. I have been learning from both parents since I was a child. I also gain a lot of knowledge from attending exhibitions, speaking to other potter friends, reading books and watching videos online.

I completed a double degree at Monash University in Visual Arts and Business (majoring in printmaking and marketing). It was here that I strengthened my drawing and print skills and learnt how to actually market myself via platforms like Instagram.

Once I completed my degree, I participated in a few group exhibitions and focused on exploring different methods of making my work. It was from here that my new colourful jewellery and home wares range was born.

What is it about ceramics that you love, and what influences your work?

I love the tactical nature of clay and the unlimited possibilities it offers. It allows you to control it but then again at times it lures you into a meditative state where unmediated visual surprises occur. 

I also enjoy the social aspect of ceramics. For me it’s not just the learning and making but the sharing nature of ceramics, which makes it so beautiful. This sense of belonging and collective knowledge is priceless and why the ceramics community is so strong and supportive. 

I’m influenced by the Japanese ceramic technique of Nerikomi; the overuse of gold in ancient civilisations, and old masters such as Miro, Matisse and Pollock. I take inspiration from nature too, such as the swells of the ocean or flocking of birds.


Your parents Janine and Peter Pilven are well-established artists in their own right; how have your parents shaped your artistic practice?

My parents have both had major influences aesthetically on my work. They have both individually shaped my artistic practice by continually inspiring me with their extensive ceramics knowledge and past experiences. 

With that said, they don't hand feed me, they are both strict teachers who want me to do the best to my own abilities. I hope to one day to be masters in ceramics like them. 

My work’s idiosyncratic nature is influenced by my mother’s use of colour in her 2D and 3D works, my father’s lustre work in the ‘80s and his organic throwing sensibility.

I really love your use of colour, and gold. What emotions/references you hope to elicit through your work?

My work aspires to inject joy and happiness into daily life! 

The abstract patterning in my work encourages the viewer to make-up his or her own creative responses. My work is visually striking, deliberately over-the-top and psychedelic, aimed at tantalising the retina and mind.

You often utilise and reference Japanese techniques in your own work. What do you like about Japanese ceramics, and how does the Japanese technique Nerikomi differ from other ceramic practices?

I have grown to admire Japanese aesthetics and sensibilities in general; Japanese culture can be extremely contradictory but its never boring! Zen Buddhism and the notion of Wabi-Sabi is a profound concept that prefaces much of Japanese ceramics.

The ability to allow the clay its own voice and for the maker to accept imperfections are qualities that I now appreciate and hold in high regard.

Nerikomi is a technique that utilises coloured clays and is often un-glazed. It can be very labour intensive and patience and careful handling are essential to avoid cracking and bloating of the clay.

The final result from this technique cannot be replicated in any other way. It is crisp in colour and mesmerizing in its beautiful patterning. I employ a contemporary twist on Nerikomi and combine it with other techniques into my own work.

You've collaborated with some phenomenal Australian designers, such as Lisa Gorman of fashion label “Gorman”. How does collaboration influence your work?

Collaborations enable me to really analyse my work; to re-think, re-evaluate and reconsider new ways of making and aesthetic combinations.

Collaborations also allow me to embrace others’ creative ideas and incorporate these with my own.

We’re very excited to see where you go with your work. What’s up next for you?

am currently studying my Masters of Teaching (secondary) so I hope to focus on this as well as make my usual ceramics range. Also I am working to make a new body of work for an exhibition in 2017. And who knows what else will pop up … I like to go with the flow!

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