Hey guys, I wanted to post this last week but I was struck down with the flu hard so out the window went that plan. Life just gets in the way sometimes, doesn’t it? Anyway, some time ago, I had the pleasure of visiting the lovely and very talented ceramicist and multi-disciplinary designer July Adrichem at her home and studio. I have followed her work after discovering her on Etsy a year or two ago and when my friend Lotte, a Dutch writer I collaborate with, suggested we shoot a story at her studio I didn’t need much convincing. I was so excited to meet the person behind a brand I have long admired and I can tell you, July was an absolute delight and every inch as talented as I thought she’d be. I thought you’d like to see into her studio and read about her work as a designer and ceramicist and see some of the images I shot at her studio that day.
From previous entires in my Style Files column you will know that I love meeting fellow creatives and delving into their stories. And this one is nothing short of inspirational because, like me in many ways, July (pronounced Julie) has learnt much of her craft from scratch with little to no formal training in some areas and does the most wonderful work that certainly evoked something in my soul that day. As a multi-disciplinary designer, she spends her days helping small businesses develop their branding, doing product styling, photography, graphic and surface pattern design and also has her own ceramics line that is gorgeous, just take one look at her shop. So many things going on and yet she’s as cool as a cucumber. Take a peek into her studio with me, see the beautiful wares she produces and read a bit about her process and story…
“I’ve known I wanted to be an entrepreneur since I was sixteen,” July says. After obtaining her credentials in graphic design she knew she didn’t want to sit behind the computer every day so went on to pursue interior styling at Amsterdam’s prestigious Artemis Academy.
“I wanted to work with my hands, create things and be creative. That gives me energy.”
Deeply inspired by the work of designer Piet Boon during her studies, July set her heart on the goal of obtaining a job with the design firm after finishing up her studies. “I find his style so beautiful, mainly due to his use of natural materials,” she says. “In each country he creates something, he uses raw materials from that specific country.
“Very basic and pure, I like that.”
July landed a position as full-time stylist with Piet Boon shortly after studies came to an end, where she worked for two years. “It was an educational period. I created concepts for (international) styling products, supervised interns and made objects for styling productions, made from paper and iron wire. I learned to work in teams to plan things, set priorities and to address common tasks. At the same time I noticed how much I love creating something and I grew my love for ceramics and slow design. Quality takes time so I gave myself some time to eventually be my own boss.”
Determination and patience have clearly been the base ingredient for this accomplished young designer in her career path, for she has mastered skills in a matter of days that take most people months, if not years, to obtain.
“I am someone who sets the bar high and I am hard on myself. I feel I must master certain skills and continue until it succeeds. When I decided that I wanted to learn how to make ceramic mugs and bowls, I jumped on YouTube to learn how. That’s the beauty of YouTube and the internet, you can find and learn almost everything.
“I gave myself three days. Three days to see if I had talent or not. If it failed, I would put the thought away. I am that realistic.”
“The first two days were tough. I found it so difficult to center the clay and get it under control. The clay sank together and because of all that practice, my hands were killing me. I made all the mistakes you can make as a beginner. But I pulled through. On day two, my pieces gained a bit more shape, and by day three I had my first bowl!
“I still mess up sometimes, but practice makes perfect. And all the effort that is accompanied by the production process – the blood, sweat and tears – give character to the clay. That is my idea of especially handmade. Each piece is unique.”
July launched her first collection, Second Skin in 2015, a production line based on plaster and cotton. You can purchase pieces in her shop here.
“I saw bowls and plates at my grandmother’s home and found the form interesting. The tableware pattern didn’t appeal me, however. I decided to experiment and reuse the tableware but change the form, resulting in a collection that is purely decorative. On the other hand, I also wanted to release a series of functional ceramics for my collection, so I made ceramic mugs and bowls primarily in earth tones that are fully usable and dishwasher safe.
July operates from a small (6 square meter) room in her home. White walls, minimalistic furniture and lots of natural light make it a great space to work in, regardless of the size. “The moment I decided to make our spare room an office, I bought a can of white latex and painted the whole room white, to add light and a sense of peace to the space. My turntable is positioned so that I can look outside while I throw.”
While the walls are sparse, July keeps a simple wooden shelf as a display for some of her favourite pieces, fresh greenery and styling objects. Across the space is an old pin board she used to have as a child with inspirational clippings and words pinned to it.
“My first turntable was borrowed from a friend of my mother, just so I could test whether working with ceramics would be something for me,” July says. “I now have my own turntable but do not own an oven yet.
For baking, I’ll go to Keramikos in Haarlem. Quite a major undertaking, because the bowls and mugs are unbaked extremely vulnerable. When I have dried clay forms in the back of my car, I try anxiously to avoid every bump or threshold.”
“After a week I can pick up my bowls and mugs and I apply the enamel. Then the biscuit goes back to Haarlem to bake it off for a second time. You can safely say that costs remain spared. Slow design at its best!”
One single trestle table with a plain white leaf and a turntable are all that July needs to make her space as functional as it is an inspiring space to be in. “I try to keep it as basic and functional as possible, especially since it is such a small space.”
“I create my product pictures on a table of folding trestles and a white-painted table top from the garden. It works perfectly for me. If we have guests to stay, I put all that aside to make a guest room.”
July sells to her works to customers from Australia to Norway, Germany and the United Kingdom to the United States. “Aside from my own line, I do the branding for jewellery brand I am Jai, I support FoodBandits at their workshops and design patterns for carpets. This variation in my work appeals to me and I hope to keep it, yet I know that at some point I have to make a choice.”
Well, July, keep doing what you are doing because it’s nothing short of magic what goes on in your teeny tiny studio. To say that I am in awe of this lady would be such an understatement. I was so inspired by her in so many ways leaving her home and work studio that day. We all think we need a huge studio, a bunch of ‘stuff’ to be good at what we do and prove ourselves, yet here she is, doing such incredible things in a 6 square meter room in her rental home. One trestle table, a turntable, some clay and a camera is all this girl needs. The rest is innate, and isn’t that something.
Thanks for sharing your studio tour with us July. I loved getting to know you and hope our readers did too.
Photography: Holly Marder . Avenue Lifestyle | Story: Lotte Herink | Translation: Nina le Blanc | Editorial assistance: Juliane Stany and Ellamira Kluit – with thanks.