Martina Thornhill

I discovered the work of Martina Thornhill via one of my favorite Instagram buds (an incredible artist and woodworker), Ariele Alasko. The moment I saw Martina's ceramic pieces, I fell in love with the playful freeform edges and hand-carved original designs found within her mugs and planters. There's an organic flow to her body of work that just feels like home to me, so of course I'm totally intrigued by her and asked her a million questions. Herewith, a Q&A with the artist about her work, home, and inspiration.

Photo by Kelsey Hammersley.

Photo by Kelsey Hammersley.

How did you get your start in ceramics?

MT: Until three years ago, I had only taken one ceramics course in my life. The first time was through a community college when I was 18 and I was unbelievably terrible at it! I was too impatient with the wheel, too haphazard in my designs, and too random in my glazing. I was prolific, but it was all just so ugly. I didn't even think about trying it again until we moved to the East Coast in 2011. My husband and I were living in a small town outside of Albany and there was a pottery studio offering classes just down the road from us. I was new in town, didn't know anyone, and had some extra time on my hands, so I gave it another shot. I wasn't any better at the wheel, but my sense of design had definitely improved and it felt really good to work with clay again. From that point on, I was hooked. All in all, I've only taken four ceramics classes because I've got this stubborn streak that drives me to learn everything on my own. I don't mind asking for help when I need it, but there's something about discovering my own way to make things, my own tricks and methods, and I really love that. This is the same reason I choose to hand build as well. I've always sewn as a hobby and when I started applying those methods to ceramics, something instantly clicked for me. I could treat the slabs of clay like fabric, cut them into pattern pieces, and fuse them together. It sounds basic, but it was such a huge realization for me.

Where is your workshop located?

MT: I currently work out of my home studio in Chapel Hill, NC. Our house is super tiny and there's no room for a kiln so I build everything in my studio, then fire at a community studio in Durham. I've been selling ceramics as a hobby for the last six months, and now that I'm transitioning into making art my full-time job, I'm hoping to move into a separate studio space with my own kiln within the next few months. 

Photo by Kelsey Hammersley.

Photo by Kelsey Hammersley.

When did you know you were destined to be an artist?

MT: To be honest, I've never really thought of myself as an artist. I was always a crafty kid and had vague childhood dreams of being a fashion designer, but I never felt what I made was special enough to make a career in art a viable option. I majored in Women's Studies in school, worked as a domestic violence counselor, taught dance classes, tended bar, and always treated my art as a hobby. I just couldn't visualize taking that leap of faith and fully putting myself out there, even though making art is what makes me feel the most fulfilled. It still seems surreal to me that I'm even trying it now, and there's no way I could have done it without the constant support and encouragement from my husband and friends. 

What people, places, and things most inspire your work?

MT: Lately I've been feeling really inspired by minimal abstract art like that of Louis Reith and Lygia Pape, as well as the sculpture work of Mari Andrews and Kay Sekimachi. I am continually drawn to images of muted desert colors, geometric shapes, and balanced negative space. I don't always manage to display that in my work as much as I'd like, but creating objects reminiscent of these inspirations is always my goal. This is a little cheesy, but my husband Drew Steadham is a constant source of inspiration to me. He has such a unique view of the world and the best sense proportion and balance, so I always value his opinion. My friend Meg Adamson is an amazing multi-disciplinary artist and her aesthetic has had a huge influence on my work.

Martina also specializes in handmade leather goods, jewelry, and more. Photo by Kelsey Hammersley.

Martina also specializes in handmade leather goods, jewelry, and more. Photo by Kelsey Hammersley.

You've lived in a few different states in the US in your lifetime. When someone asks you where your home is, what do you say?

MT: This is hard question for me as my family moved around a lot when I was young and I've continued this trend as an adult. I currently live in North Carolina so technically that's my home, but when it really comes down to it, my heart is in Portland, OR. I spent most of my twenties there and am still very affected by my many experiences in that town, and the amazing nature that surrounds it. 

Who are your idols in the arts and crafts movement?

MT: Ceramics-wise I love the work of Helen Levi and Ben Medansky. They are both so skilled at what they do, have a cohesive and balanced sense of aesthetic, and yet manage to retain a sense of humor that's visible in their work. I really appreciate when someone can be so talented but not take themselves too seriously. A couple others are Ariele Alasko and Jenn Goff of Takara Design. These ladies are two of the kindest makers I've ever had the pleasure of knowing, and their encouragement and support of my work really means a lot to me. Not to mention they both are amazing at their craft. I find their drive and vision truly inspiring. 

What's next for you?

MT: I'd like to spend the next six months building my line and adding more jewelry to the collection. My focus is definitely shifting more toward ceramics as I've been really enjoying working with clay, but I can see more weaving and maybe some lost wax casting making an appearance soon. I've always had a hard time sticking to just one medium and I can't see that changing anytime soon!


Here are a few photos I shot of Martina's pour-over coffee set in action. Since arriving in the mail, this mug barely leaves my hands.

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For more...

web: http://martinathornhill.com » Instagram: @martinathornhill

Hillside Homestead

Two years ago, Susan Odom began living out her dream of homesteading — a lifestyle of self-sufficiency, practicing sustainable agriculture and homemaking. A Michigan native with roots in South Carolina, she spent seven years as a lead presenter and special events supervisor for a famous historical hotspot, Greenfield Village. Susan spent those years dressed in traditional garb, reenacting the ways of our forefathers for curious visitors. These practices still play an important role in every day life at Hillside Homestead, her picturesque home and bed & breakfast located in the quaint town of Suttons Bay, MI. Recently, Matt and I had the pleasure of visiting Hillside Homestead and getting to know Susan.

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Hillside Homestead sits on two acres of open fields and is home a pair of mud-bathing pigs, about two-dozen gorgeous free-roaming chickens, and an especially social rescue cat named Beena. The farm house was originally built around 1900 by a Bohemian immigrant named Joe Reicha and is maintained by Susan and one dedicated part-time employee — the daughter of a neighboring farmer. Staying in this cozy bed & breakfast evoked a strong sense of place for me, conjuring my upbringing on my family's farm near MI's Mackinaw Bridge.

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Susan initially stumbled upon the property while visiting a friend in the area. Though she loved the location and house, she was hesitant to commit due to the lack of acreage, originally hoping for ten acres or more. Working with a realtor, she couldn't seem to find anything that matched up, so she ultimately decided to alter the scale of her plan. When the land went back on the market a year later, she wasted no time and purchased it.

During our short stay with Susan,I had planned to read and nap, but from the moment I arrived I was so captivated by my surroundings that I spent my time engaged in conversation, taking hundreds of photographs and mental notes of her incredible stories. I learned how to make Cherry Bounce, that eggs can be stored all winter-long without refrigeration, and how to prepare currant jam. Nearly everything Susan does on her farm is consistent with nineteenth-century ways of life — from morning coffee preparation (this near 45 minute task includes cracking an entire farm-fresh egg, including the shell, into boiling coffee grounds) to cooking traditional meals on a wood-burning stove. Her aprons and dresses are specially made for her using pre-Civil War era patterns, and every piece of furniture, artwork, book, plate, and baking tool was expertly curated through estate sales and vigilant Craigslist scouring.

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I got a sneak peek into her "modern kitchen" — something she doesn't usually share with guests — where she washes all the dishes (by hand, of course!) and has plenty of counter space to prepare large-scale meals. I also had the pleasure of cooking breakfast with her — biscuits, cream potatoes, and pepper and cheese omelets. Susan even taught me the proper way of rolling out biscuits (I've been putting too much pressure on the pin all this time!).

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Matt and I enjoyed our delicious breakfast with Susan in her sunny breakfast nook while sharing stories and viewpoints on everything from vegetarianism to politics, somehow managing to drink an entire kettle of coffee. After our conversations, I gathered that Susan's motivation when starting Hillside Homestead was not only to carry on these precious traditions, but also to educate future generations about patience, the grave importance of proper farming practices, and living off the land. In the age of iPhones, Wal-Mart, and microwaves, my generation doesn't give much consideration to Susan's historical values and self-sustaining traditions. Most every ingredient used in her daily cooking is local – if not from her farm, from nearby farmers. Like in the olden days, she and her neighbors encompass a close-knit community that often trade goods and services in order to support one another. Speaking of neighbors, Susan took us to a recently opened local cidery, Tandem Ciders — just a mile-and-a-half down the road. The cidery offers almost a dozen handmade hard ciders ranging from ultra-dry to super-sweet. Each one is expertly crafted using a mix of apples farmed on their own land and sourced from other local fruit farmers. I sampled about half of them, and I hope we'll be seeing these bottles carried at Whole Foods nationwide within the next few years.

Susan is active in several educational programs in the area. Every seventh grader in the county visits the Homestead for a day and gets to experience a home-cooked traditional lunch. College-level visits with Northern Michigan University students and hands-on workshops like "Apple Butter Making" are other highlighted educational offerings.

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Part preservationist, part food historian, Susan's chosen path is a difficult but important one. I hope the future generations she is helping to educate will be as impacted by her work as I was. I hope that one day soon farmers and homesteaders like Susan will receive more tax breaks, incentives, and grant opportunities. And I hope when this happens, it will more easily enable similar projects to pop up throughout the U.S. and beyond.

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All photographs by Matt Morris, shot on a 1970s Polaroid land camera.

Cork Planter Magnets

We are wine people and therefore there's a pretty excessive stock of wine corks lying around the house at any given time. I also have a slight obsession with house plants...but our apartment has minimal natural light, which inevitably means that most of my plants die. This is depressing for obvious reasons, so I've been brainstorming ways of keeping house plants alive - even if it's just clippings from bigger plants outside. The best solution I've found so far is to put clippings of low-light plants into bottles filled with water - no soil...they seems to be perfectly happy. But in experimentation mode, I was inspired (by this blog post I stumbled upon) to try out some wine cork planters. And then I made 'em into magnets, since our fridge faces a direct light source and all. I'm just going to try watering it with a dropper once a week and see how it works! Here's a little DIY tutorial for you. 20120626-200548.jpg

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Walnut Animal Society

An acquaintance of mine, Lauren Bradshaw, started a new company called Walnut Animal Society, specializing in absolutely darling 100% brushed wool handmade stuffed animals.

Henry the Fox

Henry the Fox

Chester the Raccoon

Chester the Raccoon

Eleanor the Bear

Eleanor the Bear

Prior to Walnut Animal Society, I always enjoyed looking through her Etsy shop of cute handmade needle-felted owls and bird cake toppers. Here's a bride & groom cake topper I had saved as a favorite from ages ago.

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I just adore her work!

Alexandra Grecco

I first took notice of Alexandra Grecco while browsing a friend's "favorites" on Etsy a while back, but for some reason never really stopped to look at her lovely creations until today. The Brooklyn-based designer is an FIT graduate and former Ballet dancer, which appears to inspire elements of her designs. Some pieces have a vaudeville quality while others are simply feminine and enchanting. You'll find everything from flirty silk crepe dresses to delicate flowered headbands in her Etsy store.

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>> Her Etsy shop here.

>> Her Blog here.