Aleisha Ellis was nearly three years into a photography degree at Georgia State University when she ventured into an extracurricular pottery class. "It appealed to me because it was very tactile and so different from photography," Ellis says.
After graduating in 2017, she got her own wheel and started Utility Objects. Inspired by contemporary Japanese ceramics, Ellis’s aesthetic is organic and, well, utilitarian. She allows natural colors and textures to speak for themselves but inserts a personal touch here and there—like pressing in dimples with the "hitchhiker’s thumb" she says she inherited from her great-grandmother.
But her work’s uniting principle is functionality. Take her Nagai mug, which includes an oversize handle because, says Ellis, "I want it to be for all sizes of hands."
Learn how Ellis thinks the pandemic will affect design, plus read more of her responses to our Q&A, below.
Hometown: Atlanta, GA
Describe what you make in 140 characters. I make pottery home goods.
What's the last thing you designed? A dimple tumbler.
Do you have a daily creative ritual? Morning yoga stimulates my muscles and relaxes tension before I start throwing, which can be taxing on the hands, for the day.
How do you procrastinate? By doing other tasks that seem more exciting.
What everyday object would you like to redesign? Why? The mug. Whether it's a cup of tea, coffee, or water to start the day, redesigning a more comfortable and exciting mug is always on my mind as there are so many ways to design your favorite mug.
Who are your heroes (in design, in life, in both)? Noguchi
What skill would you most like to learn? Illustration or graphic design.
What is your most treasured possession? My potters wheel.
What's your earliest memory of an encounter with design? Visiting my local design museum to see 3D printed textiles.
What contemporary design trend do you despise? Tapestries.
Finish this statement: All design should...be minimal and organic.
What’s in your dream house? A concrete conversation pit.
How do you think the pandemic will affect residential design in the future? What about workplace or commercial design? I think there will be more affordable and innovative living solutions when it comes to agriculture. More residents are going to begin growing their own food if they haven't already. Commercial and workplaces will be increasingly designed for smaller groups. Conference rooms may become a thing of the past as we move into a more digital meeting platform.
How can the design world be more inclusive? By providing more affordable and economical design solutions.
The Dwell 24 2020
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