“Form and decoration, the practical and the whimsical work together in my pieces to create engaging and lighthearted works of art for the home.”
Eileen de Rosas brings a touch of fun to everyday objects. Her ceramic mugs, plates, bowls, and pitchers are hand painted with images reminiscent of childhood – toys, bicycles, and even Godzilla – or feature portraits straight from nature.
How did you get started as an artist?
My first instinct is to say that I’ve always been a an artist–in the way that all children are artists. I just never outgrew it. Seriously, since I was very small I always knew I wanted to be an artist when I grew up. Making and enjoying art is an integral part of my identity.
So I started by drawing incessantly (if I wasn’t reading or playing outside). Then I went to art school after high school, then I had various odd jobs so I could make art, then I discovered ceramics at this wonderful studio called Supermud on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. Once I discovered the pottery wheel it was all over–I knew what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. In the beginning my pots were plain, but once I learned the maiolica technique the drawings have sprouted all over.
Who or what has influenced you the most?
In ceramics, my greatest influences are medieval Italian maiolica, Iznik fritware and Korean Choson and Koryo celadon. Japanese brushwork and composition directly influence the way I decorate my pots.
Hiding behind the work and in the back of my mind are all my wonderful teachers and fellow art students, and especially my talented husband, Shunsuke Yamaguchi, who always has the best feedback and creative thoughts.
What do you do when you need inspiration?
For inspiration I like to take a break from pot making and go for a walk in the woods or cook a good meal. I am lucky to live close to a major city where I can go see great art as well. If I am really stuck often I will concentrate on routine work and put the new stuff out of mind. While working and thinking about something else, usually the answer or idea pops right into my head.
Describe a breakthrough moment.
I had been making a traditional Korean form called a moon pot. This pot is made by joining two large bowls together to make a very round form. Usually it is glazed white, hence the name moon pot. I work in terra cotta, a very different clay body, which I then glaze white and decorate.
So here I am in my studio, late at night, staring at these round forms. How on earth am I going to decorate them? They are nothing like my other work, they demand something more than flowers and fruit. As I am staring at them and working out design ideas on them with food coloring (this burns out in the firing so I use it to lay out compositions and work out any mistakes), suddenly I see the roundness of the form and its similarity to a head. And because it’s late at night and I have a lot of these pots I can take a chance. I paint a closeup North American Black Bear face on the pot. This bear motif has since found its way on to cups, bowls and platters as well as these portrait moon pots.
What do you love about what you do?
I love working with my hands. Working in clay is so tactile and magical. I am so lucky to be able to get muddy almost every day!
What object in your home tells the best story?
It has to be the bottle of St. Gerard’s oil that I couldn’t throw away when we moved in. We live in my late great uncle’s house—he was part of a large Irish family, so my grandmother and great aunt also lived here, as well as my great grand parents and assorted great aunts and uncles, and even my father and his brother and sister at one time.
They were quite a religious family. When my parents were cleaning it out after my great uncle’s death, they found gallons of holy water in the attic and of course dozens of religious figurines. They gave away or disposed of most of the religious paraphernalia, but the bottle of St. Gerard’s holy oil with the pretty label was left behind in the basement. And I just can’t get rid of it–it is a tangible connection to that whole large, gregarious, full of the blarney, Irish American family.
If you weren’t an artist you’d be…
No, I’m kidding. A writer or editor, probably. I love to read.