We’ve always been interested in the way life, art, and the outdoors intersect for other creatives. The Designed Life is our series of profiles featuring friends and friends-of-friends from across the design community, who sit down with us to talk about the ins and outs of making things, places they go and—of course—what they bring with them.
Ariana Richie is a full-time ceramicist and former apparel designer for Topo Designs. Her evolution from drawing to textile design to product design to pottery has coincided with her evolution as a human. (Including the awakening of a long-dormant love of the outdoors, now a cornerstone of her life.) We were fascinated, and she was good enough to share with us. Read on to see what we learned.
As you know, The Designed Life series explores our favorite topic: the intersection of life, art and the outdoors. How are these concepts related in your own mind? What do they have to do with how you've designed your life?
To me the ideal lifestyle is one that fosters creativity, facilitates a strong sense of community, and provides opportunities to evolve. The intersection of life, art and the outdoors is where—for me at least—this lifestyle can be fully experienced. Spending time outdoors provides me with time to process, recharge, and put myself into a creative mindset. Spending time outdoors with other people provides me with a strong sense of community and belonging in the world without the distractions typically encountered in an urban setting. By designing my life around art and the outdoors, I find that I am better able to sustain a state of equilibrium and meet my goals as a designer and human being.
One of the most interesting parts of our conversation was learning about how you discovered what you really wanted to be doing. I couldn't help but think of a sculptor "discovering" her sculpture as she chips away at the marble. Can you talk us through how you got from a love of drawing and color, to designing for the outdoor industry, to pottery?
My motivation for moving from one design discipline to the next was a strong desire to challenge myself in new ways and coincided with the self discovery that naturally occurs during transitioning stages in life. Ceramics ended up being the design discipline in which I could finally satisfy my creative itch by fully immersing myself in the design process.
What is it about pottery that, as you put it, "completely consumed you"?
It’s completely immersive and demands all of my attention. I think a lot of people might assume that ceramics is a very humble, low-tech affair when in fact it requires extensive knowledge of chemistry. This is especially true when it comes to glazing. Glaze color is a direct result of the chemical reactions that occur as the glaze melts during firing. Unlike the pigments used in paint, the color you see is not the color you get.
Speaking of pottery, tell us a little bit about Artisan Artifacts.
Informed by function and inspired by nature, I aspire to create pieces that are practical and utilitarian whilst serving as objects of beauty. My designs are remedies for everyday needs and the result of an intimate collaboration between form and function. My aesthetic has grown out of my passion for all things nature-made, my desire for simplicity in an overly sensory world, and a holistic approach to life. I am drawn to muted earth tones, natural clay bodies, and contemporary forms.
What do you enjoy making the most?
Right now it’s pulling the handles for my mugs. It’s technical and intuitive at the same time—like a choreographed dance.
Favorite Topo product?
The River Shorts! I wear them to the studio in the summer so I can jump in the Poudre River during my lunch break and be dry by the time I get back to work.
Most influential book/movie/other media you've encountered?
I’m a huge binger of short stories and George Saunders is one of my favorite authors when it comes to this genre. His stories are both surreal and grounded, focusing on the persistence of humanity despite the abysmal nature of societal norms we voluntarily commit ourselves to.
Any advice for the creative outdoorsy people out there in the process of designing their own life?
Find your own unique way to rebel against the hyper-connected, technology fueled, overstimulation world we live in.
Follow along with Ariana’s journey on Instagram at @artisanartifacts.