Noelle Horsfield owns and operates Full Circle Ceramic, a handmade ceramic studio and shop located in Huntington, WV. Full Circle Ceramic is a community clay studio where Noelle teaches classes and produces a full line of functional ceramic wares and gift items. Noelle decorates her work with distinct illustrations with a refreshing edginess that amuse and delight customers from across the country.
Please Introduce Yourself:
Hi there, everyone! My name is Noelle Horsfield and I own and operate Full Circle Ceramic in Huntington, WV.
How did your clay journey begin?
I was a painting major in college. I’m actually still just a few credits shy of a degree. Imagery, language, form and the different processes of creating art has always interested me and I played around with a bunch of different mediums until I finally found my way to ceramics.
I think this period of exploration was necessary in order for me to develop a studio practice that is uniquely my own; it was a gathering up of skills that I then turned into my own way of working. As soon as I put my hands in clay, I knew I had finally found the right medium for me…there is no getting bored with ceramics as there is always a new challenge or problem to solve.
I “met” you back in the blogging heydays around 2008. If I remember correctly, you were living in Maine at the time and were a resident artist at Watershed. At the time, your work was so different than its current incarnation. Can you pin point the stylistic shift?
I don’t know and I go back and forth on how different the work actually is at the core. Back then I was working in earthenware and making big chunky forms that had a lot of sculptural additions with all the color in my work coming from slips that I mixed myself. It was very sweet, and, for lack of a better word, whimsical in nature.
The technical aspects of my work have definitely changed drastically as I have been working in cone 6 porcelain and white stoneware for the past 4 years. Mishima and sgraffito processes form the decorative and illustrative aspects of the work. However, I feel like the playfulness and sweetness is still present in the work. It’s balanced with a dose of profanity or maybe some of the darker parts of my nature. Maybe the earlier work just seemed a bit too one sided and I needed to inject the work with some reality…bringing a little weird to the party never hurt anyone.
Speaking of blogging, do you still have your old blog and website? I can’t find it anywhere on the interwebs. Do you think blogging is still relevant?
I wish I still had the old blog if only to go back and read my thoughts from my time at Watershed! I’m not sure how interested anyone was in my day to day blog posts back then but I felt like I was offering a unique look inside, spending time at an artistic residency retreat like Watershed. That other artists seemed to gain some insight into that experience through my posts made me happy.
The decision to stop blogging is really just due to time constraints as well as the idea that Instagram and Facebook allow for a fast and easy way to connect with my customers and audience in a very visual way. I do think longer form blogging still has a place in the online community but I think the writing needs to be really smart and thoughtful. Posts should be heavy on photographs, and be regular and dependable. These are all things that I feel like I just don’t have time to commit to right now.
For a time, it appeared that you stopped creating with clay and had switched to the art of paper cutting. As someone who is interested in many art forms myself, it’s a direction I understand well. Can you elaborate on your creative detour?
After living in Maine where I had freedom to create ceramic work in my home studio, at Watershed, or in the studios at Portland Pottery, my husband and I moved to Massachusetts where I found myself without access to a ceramic studio at all. While I love ceramics and the process of working in clay, I am a maker at heart and I needed to have the ability to make something. Cut paper collage is a medium that I worked with a bit in college so I returned to this art form as a way to fulfill myself artistically.
I feel like I made a lot of nice work and even had a couple of solo shows in Northampton, MA. Greeting cards made from my original collages are available in my shop in Huntington. It is interesting to see people enjoying this work alongside my current ceramic pieces.
In my opinion, the art of swearing isn’t appreciated enough. For this reason, I love how you’ve embraced adding a well placed curse word in your current clay work. It’s just the sort of levity that is desperately needed today. I also love the irony of using profanity on ceramics, an art that has a history of being a “keepsake” or special occasion item. Having one of your platters reveal itself on a holiday table would have been so interesting when I was younger…. Can you speak to your use of salty language in your clay work?
My first sentence as a baby was “I’m a damn fine baby!” My grandfather taught me to say this as a kind of parlor trick…it was a hit and I think it just stuck with me. I began putting profanity on ceramics about 3 or 4 years ago now and people just really seem to have fun with it and appreciate the honesty and humor that goes into the work. Sometimes the work might get a little bit confrontational but I mostly try to stick with what I like to call “positive profanity.”
I don’t normally make things that say “fuck you” and even my biggest seller, which is “fuck that shit” is intended to mean “fuck all that shit that brings you down or makes you feel less than enough or feels like too much for you to bear.” Balancing the profanity with sweet animals, some floral designs or anything that helps to lighten the tone of the piece is important. It makes the profanity a little easier to take. Everything has a particular role to play.
I’m curious about your new business, Full Circle Ceramic in Huntington, WV. It appears that you’ve moved your studio into a retail space and now offer classes as well as other types of products outside of ceramic work. To be honest, I’m a little jealous. What prompted this move and how is it working out for you?
Well, having a retail shop and a working studio in the same place is definitely a balancing act but it seems to be working for me thus far! Like most ceramic artists, I spent years working in a home studio and sending things out to galleries and shops with some online sales here and there. This is a fine business model and it works great for some people but I was left feeling very alone and isolated in my studio.
I craved interaction with my customers and I really needed to be able to have more of a work/life balance. If I stepped out of the studio to let the dogs out, before I knew it I would be caught up in household chores and hours had passed away from the studio. The idea of a shop where I could both create and sell my work has been on mind for a long time. When the opportunity to lease a space in an old train station complex in Huntington presented itself last spring and I jumped on it.
Full Circle Ceramic Studio and Gallery
We opened in June 2016 and the response has been overwhelmingly positive. I sell my finished work, t-shirts and stickers with my own designs, some jewelry, my Dad’s original stained glass art, and the work of a few other local ceramic artists as well as taking custom orders in the shop. The floor space is about 1/3 retail selling space and 2/3 work space. So, I am able to work in the studio and talk to customers at the same time, stopping when necessary to run the cash register or meet with customers for more in depth consultations.
I was a little concerned about the local reaction to the profanity and edgy nature of my work but people have been really kind and welcoming and most people just really get a kick out of it. It’s so fun seeing customers come in and interact with the pieces in the shop. You don’t get this experience when you just box things up and shop them off to a gallery. And, let’s be honest, it’s fucking awesome to get full price for a piece rather than giving half of it to a gallery right off the top!
Can we talk about your tattoos? I love yours! I understand that tattoos are often very personal. From the outside looking in, yours remind me of your ceramic work. Is there a correlation?
Thank you so much! I think my tattoos bring to mind my ceramic work because both my tattoos and my pottery reflect my personal design aesthetic. There isn’t much difference between my life and my work so everything tends to swirl around and it just becomes a way of life. My tattoos are both a form of self expression and a way of collecting artwork.
The tattoo artist has a general idea of what I would like for a particular tattoo and where I would like to see it on my body and then I allow them the freedom to create something beautiful for me. I have never been disappointed with what they come up with and I know that I do my best custom work when I am afforded this same freedom by my own customers.
Who or what inspires you?
My inspiration sources are pretty varied and I try to always stay open to new patterns, colors, thoughts and ideas. I have always been a big reader and I listen to audiobooks as much as possible when I’m working in the studio so I get a ton of inspiration from words and stories that find their way into my head. I also collect little snippets of quotes and ideas from NPR and the podcasts I listen to. Some health problems have plagued me and Frida Kahlo has become a sort of personal inspiration and patron saint of mine as well. I also LOVE folk art and outsider art from Appalachia and around the world.
What do you do for fun outside of pottery?
My husband and I have 4 dogs and 2 cats and taking care of these guys is a big part of our lives. We live near a beautiful park and walk our greyhound Betty there every evening. However, since opening the shop last summer, the line between work and play for me is pretty blurry. This is fine because I would rather be in the studio with my hands in clay than almost anywhere else in the world.
Where can people find you?
- My website is www.fullcircleceramic.com
- Instgram: @fullcircleceramic
- Facebook: Full Circle Ceramic or Noelle Horsfield
- Twitter: CircleCeramic @circleceramic
I mostly stick to the smaller local festivals and events. The shop takes so much time and I often have trouble making enough work to keep up with stocking the shelves, custom orders and wholesale accounts. If you’re in the Huntington, WV area you can find me at:
- Vineyard at the Village, Barboursville, WV, May 13th
- Rails & Ales Craft Brew Festival Harris Riverfront Park, Huntington, WV, August 12th
- Huntington Music & Arts Festival, Ritter Park, Huntington, WV, September 2nd
I would also like to give a shout out to a few shops that carry my work:
I publish interviews with artists whose primary medium is clay once a week, every Friday. This regular segment is named “Feature Fridays”. Find past interviews on the Ceramicscapes Blog using the category search function on the right hand sidebar. Interested in being featured? Visit the Apply for Feature Fridays page for more information.