Interview: Ceramicist Ruby Pilven

The Australian artist merges Japanese techniques with a love for luster


Growing up with two ceramic artists for parents, Australian Ruby Pilven has been experimenting with the craft since childhood. The Ballarat-based ceramicist makes experimental works—from necklaces and rings to folded vases—that are embellished by delicate brushstrokes and lustrous gold highlights for stunning conversation pieces. Pilven, who is currently completing her Masters degree (and working two jobs) still manages to find time to make her striking vessels and jewelry, which quickly sell out. Pilven spoke with CH about her artistic process and hopes for the products she makes.

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Are there specific places, people, sounds, anything that you draw a lot of inspiration from?

I draw inspiration from a lot of things in life. My parents are major influences—in their artistic style, methods and creative outlook. Other sources of inspiration include my parents’ 10-acre lot and hand-built mudbrick house and studio in Ross Creek, the beach, my love and fascination with Japan and my passion for printmaking.

Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. Most of my most successful works have been accidental chance operations.

Do you then plan each piece out or is there a lot of trial and error?

When I have an idea for a new work, I will sketch out visually on paper and in my mind. I then trial out a few processes and make a few maquettes. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. Most of my most successful works have been accidental chance operations. My current series of works utilize the Japanese technique called Nerikomi. Hence, there is a level of control but it is also open and uncontrived.


How long does each vessel take to make?

Once I color my clay, I then wedge it again, roll it, cut it and sculpt it into a cylinder, slowly dry it out for a week, fire it in a bisque firing, apply glaze to inside and out, fire in a second firing, decorate with gold lustre and then a final lustre firing… Then DONE! 

Do you feel that your style evolves organically, or have you purposely seen a niche you want to fill with each new project?

I create what I like and if others like it, then that’s a bonus! So in that way my work style does evolve naturally and organically. I say be true to yourself, and what you like.

Do you design and create for yourself, or do you think a lot about the functionality of the piece once it’s with its new owner?

I see my vessels more as artworks than everyday homewares. If I can make ceramic vessels which are both visually appealing and functional then it’s appealing to all. My jewelry and pots are audacious in bold color patterns, striking in metallic highlights and unique in architectural structure and form. They aim to pleasure the eye and inject joy and happiness into the everyday.

Pilven’s stunning vases are available in-store from various retailers including Lunar Store, online at Falling for Florin, with a few wares also for sale at her Etsy store.

Images courtesy of Ruby Pilven