WORDS: KATE WEINER
IMAGES: SIMONE LITTLEDALE
It's very difficult to make a living as an artist but if we can change paradigms around that and encourage more people to pursue art in a definitive way, I think we are going to come out with a far more beautiful and far more caring society.
I first discovered Ghost Mountain Co. during my Artist-In-Residence at the magical Woodland Keep. Surveying Demetria's kitchen shelves, I stumbled across a charcoal grey bowl mapped by Arcana symbols. The beautiful design spoke to something deep in me. It was a reminder to take care of the tools I use to nourish myself and to see the magic in the mundane.
Inspired by Ghost Mountain's functional ceramics that evoke a deep appreciation for the wilderness, I reached out to artist Simone Littledale to talk nature, art, and adventuring. Tune in for an energizing conversation that I hope will give you permission to fearlessly make with the same kind of curiosity and creativity that Simone brings to her craft.
KATE WEINER: What inspired you to pursue ceramics?
SIMONE LITTLEDALE: I've done ceramics since I was a kid at the local community center. I always liked it but never pursued it extensively. I graduated university, went traveling, came back home, and couldn't find work. To occupy my time and keep myself from getting too bummed out, I started making pottery—my Mom teaches the little kid classes—and it just exploded from there. I started going every day.
KW: What's your creative process like?
SL: I'm a big nerd and am interested in many different things. I'll catch wind of something and think oh that's fascinating and want to read everything I can about it. Most of the collections [for Ghost Mountain] stem from that curiosity. Arcana came from a longstanding interest in witchcraft, alchemy, and the history surrounding the occult, especially the scientific component. Alchemy [for example] is a predecessor to the study of chemistry. Before anybody really knew what it was about in terms of molecular exchange, people used symbols as a shorthand.
I got really obsessed for a bit with knowing where all the plants in B.C. came from and understanding their scientific names. I'd go to the library and sit and draw botanical illustrations—and then I'd adapt those drawings to simpler forms that can be easily carved and painted onto pottery.
In terms of trial and error, I like to explore painting with cobalt carbonate—which has been used on pottery for many centuries—and carving [shapes into the ceramics] using a method called sgraffito.
KW: What experiences shape your work?
SL: I live in a pretty stunning environment on the West Coast of British Columbia. I'm as far West as you can go in Canada so I'm close to old growth forests, unbelievable cliffs, and open oceans—but it's also a semi-Mediterranean climate that gives life to incredible biodiversity.
I'm also inspired by the Amazon Rainforest. I've gone down twice to work with indigenous communities on art and cultural preservation. I'm hoping to go down again in the next year or so and run another project. That's a place where the understanding of things that are not explainable is far different from ours. Things will just happen and people will consider it routine even though as an outsider it's unbelievable. Going there you really have to suspend your disbelief and not take everything from our urban standpoint. That's why I'm so inspired by the different perspectives of my friends who live there—their way of going about life, of perceiving time.
KW: What brought you to the Amazon?
SL: Our good family friend Diego Samper of Fundación Calanoa has been going to the Amazon for several decades. He spent eight of those years navigating through communities by canoe. He invited me down three years ago to work with his niece and teach photography classes.
KW: At Loam, we talk a lot about the importance of living our values. How do you embody hope in your everyday life?
SL: By trying to provide as much support as I can for other artists—mentorship if they need it, guidance if they want it. I'm trying to do my small part to encourage the proliferation of art in small cities. It's very difficult to make a living as an artist but if we can change paradigms around that and encourage more people to pursue art in a definitive way, I think we are going to come out with a far more beautiful and far more caring society. Let yourself consider yourself an artist.