British expatriate Romy Northover had tried a million different career options before admitting that ceramics was her passion and in turn, her career.
After completing her BA in Fine Art at Goldsmiths University in London, the well-travelled lass tried everything from advertising and styling to painting Venetian masks, trotting the globe as she went. But ceramics had always been there, on the sidelines, drawing her back.
“It’s a romantic story actually”, Romy says. “I knew what it was to have passion; I left it, broke my heart, and was finally, after time, reunited with my first love.”
Currently based in Brooklyn, NY, Romy now has her own ceramics line, NO., in which she experiments with Japanese techniques - despite her training in traditional European ceramics. The two are often regarded as completely different approaches to ceramics but Romy manages to beautifully combine the diverse styles to create some truly unique pieces of art.
“My techniques are an amalgamation of both Western and Eastern” Romy says.
“I was fortunate in that when looking for a ceramics studio I found Togei Kyoshitus in NYC. It was at Togei that I learnt the Japanese techniques, which really made sense to me.”
Although important, technique is not a dictator for Romy, who prefers to allow herself a certain amount of freedom.
“If I obsess about technique it can lock me in, so it’s really about finding balance within my practice” she says.
“It’s an ongoing process; I am always learning and the material itself teaches a lot.”
Romy’s design really is a process as she says. Each piece takes time to create, shape and dry, and usually goes through at least two firings.
“There is a lot of time to develop as you are moving along,” Romy says, “I don’t work from hard, fixed ideas.”
Taking the time to daydream actually fuels Romy’s creativity and she loves it when her pieces surprise her, even if those pieces are as she says, “defiant little brats”.
“I'll get a mood or a feeling and that starts to shift, I'll start noticing and looking for images, sentences, tones, textures that are to do with that mood. Then everything is about that. I see it, feel it everywhere; simultaneously it comes into my work” Romy says.
While elements of Western and Eastern technique are central to her work, Romy’s ‘nomadic’ years after University have influenced her creative exploration significantly.
Over the years Romy has lived in Berlin, Hong Kong and Venice, among other places. These locations are as diverse as the multiple career changes she’s had; all of which have shaper her practice to some degree.
“When you travel you are on high alert; all your senses work overtime to figure out what’s happening. It all has an impact” Romy explains.
This constant invasion of new experiences has shaped the way Romy perceives the world around her, encouraging her to be brave in her creative practice.
“I was never afraid of living in different countries” Romy says. “I felt like a foreigner in my motherland to a certain extent, so it’s not something extraordinary for me to feel like I don’t understand what’s going on!”
This collision of cultures is evident in her work, but has also taught her a lot about life in general.
“I’ve learnt that challenging yourself is not the same as torturing yourself” she says.
“It’s important to avoid people, places and situations that don’t work for you and concentrate on experiences that do.”
Romy’s journey, both in the physical sense as she moved across the globe and in the spiritual sense as she gradually returned back to ceramics, has shown her that sometimes even the most annoying of clichés are in fact, true.
“Life is about absolutely following one’s heart” Romy laughs, “I have to actively remind myself of this.”
With a jewelry collaboration, some mixed media projects and some commissions for large scale works in the wings, the year ahead for Romy is looking rather exciting.
“I couldn’t say I have a favourite piece; it’s more about the process. The process has magic” she finishes with a smile.