Natasha Alphonse is a Seattle based multidisciplinary artist with a focus on pottery. Her Georgetown studio is lined with simple white and natural colored vessels in varying stages of the process - formation, firing, and glaze. As she throws clay onto her potters wheel, Natasha’s constant companion Olives, a charming Blue Heeler, runs past her feet. Her studio buzzes with activity as she creates her collections of glazed cups, plates, and bowls. The beauty of her work lies in its organic originality - simplicity in form, with colors derived from nature. She is fascinated with the visual experience of presenting food and the rituals in which we use functional items every day.
Natasha derives inspiration from her roots in Ontario, Canada. She grew up as part of the Denesuline tribe, where fishing, eating caribou, and raising sled dogs were part of her daily ritual. With a background in drawing from the University of Alberta, ceramics came later, and very naturally, to Natasha. Her current focus is on creating small batch collections, commission work, and teaching classes in her studio. Natasha's work reminds us that the objects that fill our home don't define us, but they do stimulate creativity, productivity and affect our mood. We will continue to surround ourselves with the beauty she creates.
Photography by AJ Ragasa
I was born in Canada on a small Reserve in Northern Saskatchewan called Black Lake. I grew up fishing and eating Caribou in this small, remote town of 2,000 people. Living up North felt very fluid and open. You would walk through the cold, into someone’s house, there was food on the stove and always a huge pot of tea. Drinking tea has always been a ritual in my life. Everyone drinks Red Rose Tea with a ton of sugar and it transports me back whenever I have it now. My family has always nurtured my artistic side and been so supportive. My mother was a teacher and we would spend our summer’s in Ontario with her family, who were mostly all artists. We would go to art shows and they would give me feedback on my drawing. They’ve always had my back like that.
I've been on a mission to connect with other potters. I partnered with Steve Sauer, a potter with a wood kiln on Bainbridge Island, to create some of my favorite pieces. These large kilns don’t get fired very often, maybe once a year. It takes a lot of people with a lot of knowledge to make it happen, so we fired for 5 days straight all day and all night. It was an atmospheric firing, so the surface decoration of your piece is dependent on what wood you put in and how long you fire it for. The longer you fire it for, the more wood ash falls on the piece and it starts melting into a glaze. The way you load can also influence the way the flame travels through the kiln. The pieces come out looking very earthy. This process is an honest way of achieving inspiration from nature, without competing with nature.
Growing up in the North, we would raise dog teams to pull our long canvas toboggan. My father would take us all on rides with my granny, this tiny, feisty woman. We would pack a picnic, then all pile in the sled, snuggled in a bunch of blankets. We would go onto the ice with the flat landscape of white and the sound of silence. The dogs in front being all you hear. My father would cut Spruce Bows to make a fire and we would drink tea and eat Caribou at my granny’s house on the shore. This memory holds so many sensations in my mind.
I derive inspiration from my surroundings and where I come from. All of those experiences shape who you are. Growing up, I spent so much time exploring the outdoors, it is a comfortable and safe place for me. I pull from these forms and colors, while trying not to compete with nature. I want my pieces to be very simple while still having visual interest. I’ve tried working in defined segments of creating collections, but that really isn’t how it has evolved. For me, it is about creating, then continually making improvements. The great thing about the medium of ceramics is there are always improvements to be made. The potter’s I see, they are still passionate about unloading the next kiln. That’s why I wanted to become a potter, there was never a defined point where you have it all figured out. There is endless searching and creation.