In Conversation With
Victoria Morris describes her pottery practice in simple terms as “a ton of hard, physical labor.” What we gleaned from her work, and from our conversation with her, is that she’s a master craftsperson running a modern day family business. Over the last 30 years she has pushed herself diligently until specific forms and subtle, earthy colors have become second nature.
What do you collect?
I was thinking of singular objects (rocks, surfboards) and then it occurred to me that everything surrounding me represents a collective thread through my history. The combination of these things is my finest collection– paintings, photographs, furniture, pottery and clothing that my friends have made, my mother’s quilts, 100 year old baskets passed along from my great grandparents. My aunt is a true collector with a keen eye, and she’s gifted me some very special heirlooms over the years – from Navajo rugs, Scandinavian dish ware, and some things on the stranger side; including a possum skull.
At the heart of it, aside from me thinking that these are beautiful objects, they connect me to people. I can feel that someone cared enough to finish a piece, and to do it well.
What inspires you from the past?
With functional thrown pottery, it’s a fun challenge to echo a vintage form. It’s often how I find my way to new (to me) shapes or themes. With wheel-thrown pottery, even if you’re trying to mimic an old form, it is going to look different because of your hand, and the approach you took toward finding the shape. I can attempt to repeat the same form and every single one will be a unique in some way. I often compare it to singing a song. You have to figure out what is going to make it elevated and special. There are a thousand micro decisions that you have to make along the way. I have a theme board with photos of old objects and inspiration from some of my pottery heroes. These help me dial in details. It is usually about holding back and knowing where to stop.
How do you connect with color?
The glazes I’m most drawn to resemble subtle hues found in nature that fall into the in-betweens. Grayish greens, golden browns, greeny blacks, indigo, whites with a little depth. I like colors that are hard to pull apart. For example, when I imagine a blade of an agave plant. What are the colors layered together that create this hue? That depth of color excites and perplexes me.
You have a modern-day family business. How did you decide that this is the path for you and your partner?
Pottery was a hobby while I worked as a freelance production designer in fashion and advertising for large, corporate clients. I liked having something to do in my breaks in between jobs. Over time, I started selling more of my work and slowly expanded into a business. I managed to juggle the two pursuits for about a decade, but it ultimately became overwhelming. After years of trying to find balance, I realized there was no such thing unless I changed course – so I figured I’d give it a go and ditch the circus of production.
This also happened to coincide with a budding relationship with my now husband who had also worked in the commercial world. The pandemic meant production work went down and the interior design industry took off. I needed help and precautions around COVID meant that we didn't want a bunch of people in and out of the studio. We knew we wanted to spend as much time together as possible, so we gave working together a shot, and it's worked really beautifully.
How would you describe your mindset while you are working?
In broad strokes, I think there are two primary mindsets – creating, and executing. When I have a project with few constraints, or a show - that’s when I get to experiment with new shapes and play a bit, worrying less about pushing it so much that something fails. My focus is on form, proportion, color and how each piece in a series relates to one another. It’s very creative. Where as when I sit down to throw an order, I know what I need to get done and just focus on the art of throwing multiples (not always easy!). While it doesn’t feel as creative, it’s very satisfying to just make work, without the pressure of doing something new and just enjoy the process.
I dedicated myself to pottery because I enjoy spending my time making beautiful functional objects. I don’t really see it as seeking out artistic expression, but of course there’s a fine line there. For me, I consider myself a craftsperson versus an artist… call me a potter. Having some of form creative pressure is important though – it drives me to keep learning and push myself into exploring new ideas. At the moment, I’m searching for refinement in throwing bigger forms. It’s not only more physically demanding, but mentally challenging too. I want to see what my hands and body are capable of. As with most things, it’s all about practice and tenacity.
Victoria Morris’ pottery is made in her studio in Altadena, California. The collection of lamps curated by Slow Roads comes in four silhouettes and four colorways. Each piece is hand thrown and assembled individually.