Portland-based Lilith Rockett's ceramic vessels are centered in quite the aesthetic sweet spot: sleek but warm, organically minimal; classic graceful forms that throb with emotion, pieces that are ethereal but powerful. The combination of rough exterior and smooth interior is particularly seductive. And they’re the perfect coming together of craft and design in the ceramic medium.
No surprise: her clean, spare style has earned her legions of fans in the design community around the world, including Japan.
But behind all this zen sublimeness in her work is a free spirit who found her way into ceramics almost serendipitously, has always followed her heart and instincts, and most importantly, has never followed the rules.
Lilith went to school in French Literature at Ripon College in Wisconsin, studying in Paris for a year and completely immersing herself in the culture. Hoping to find her way back to Paris, she became a flight attendant for PanAm. She lived in New York and Washington, DC and San Francisco and Santa Fe where she put on self-defense classes and worked at non-profits. She then went to documentary film school, and took up photography. (She still does a lot of her own photography, which is pretty wonderful.) And then, she moved to LA to take a shot at the film business.
While she’d taken a pottery class during her time in the San Francisco Bay Area, her ceramics career only started when her husband bought her a bag of clay several years later. As she always did, she jumped in with both feet. It started with throwing and making pots. And then she took a firing class. She found herself volunteering at a new studio, becoming a technician, and the, she opened her own studio.
But still she felt the urge to do something more. So with typical zeal, she opened a gallery in LA’s Chinatown (which was just then finding its feet as a hot gallery area). There, she represented emerging and established potters like Ani Kasten and Adam Silverman and Roger Herman and quickly made a name for herself.
How did she do it? By instinct refined by an observant eye and her study of the craft. “I picked what I loved and it somehow coalesced in a fine way,” she says. “People did expect me to know a lot and I worked really hard to learn and train myself, but in the end, it was about what I loved.”
Maybe it was the years collecting mental snapshots of what she saw on her travels, or having a ceramics gallery, but it instilled in Lilith a very specific sense of what she wanted to make. “If I like it, I make it. It’s funny what you’re called to make: it’s very specific.”
She says that she draws her inspiration from environments and how she sees her pieces fitting into a home environment both in her imagination and in practice. “My work has a strong graphic sensibility. In some contexts it looks perfect and clean, but put it next to something super clean, it feels lots more organic.”
Her love of multiples is similarly intuitive: while each piece is designed to stand alone, she also finds creative inspiration in how each piece relates to each other, seeing how forms play off of each other.
Many good things come out of intensive study and practice, but more often, it takes the education gained from life and the world – and even more importantly, deep trust in yourself and your instincts – to create the foundation for work that’s truly beautiful and moving.