To say that ceramicist and designer Orly Pittel of Ceramics by Orly is passionate about pottery would be an understatement. Take it from her: “I cannot describe the feeling of taking a piece of colorless clay and giving shape to what I see in my imagination; I feel like a little girl playing in the mud!”
What she sees in her imagination could be anything from a lemon tree leaf collected on a walk to a miniature village of candy-hued houses — visions she transforms into an eclectic line of one-of-a-kind wedding cake toppers, ring dishes, and ceramic home decor. Still, her ideas are always flexible: She’ll happily tweak a piece to suit a customer’s taste, and finds joy in the inherent unpredictability of her chosen medium.
“Opening the kiln at the end of the firing process is like opening a treasure chest,” Orly continues. “I can create the same item over and over again, but because of the nature of the clay and the glazes, no two items will ever be the same. Every piece is totally unique, with its own personality.”
Read on to learn about Orly’s creative inspirations and her surprising secret weapon in the studio, and shop her collection here.
Tell us about your creative background and how you created Ceramics By Orly.
As a child, I was always surrounded by creativity: My father had a blacksmithing business and my mother crocheted and knit. Creating a beautiful finished piece from raw materials like yarn or metal was always really impressive to me.
For ten years, I taught Cisco networking at a local college and high school. Working with students was great, but I felt like something was missing. I started playing with clay in my free time and focused on learning the material; as time passed, I improved my skills and found myself spending hours sculpting clay in our garage.
After a year of working as a teacher and doing ceramics on the side, I decided to reprioritize and focus on what made me happy, so I quit my day job and became fully committed to Ceramics by Orly. Today, I live and breathe ceramics — and sometimes I even dream about it at night. That’s what happens when you do what’s close to your heart.
Miniature Houses by Ceramics by Orly, from $14
How has your work evolved over the years?
When I first opened my Etsy shop, I only listed items that were ready to ship; then I realized that, while customers may like what I make, they also wanted to personalize the designs and add their own touch, whether it was their wedding theme or the colors of their home. I now provide the flexibility to change the color palette on almost every item that I create.
You create many personalized ceramics pieces for weddings, including ring dishes and wedding toppers. What appeals to you about doing this type of work?
Working with brides and grooms is so exciting! Getting married is a time of excitement, joy, and love, and making wedding ring dishes and cake toppers allows me to play a part in my customers’ events. Knowing that couples chose to include my creations in their special day is priceless.
All of my cake toppers are custom crafted. When a bride-to-be orders a cake topper for her big day, I can add initials, change the colors, or add any other one-of-a-kind or personalized elements the customer desires. I do all that I can to create the cake topper my customer has dreamed of, knowing that they will always have it as a reminder of their big day.
Wedding Ring Dishes, from $28
Do you have any memorable experiences of working with Etsy shoppers?
Yes! I had a really memorable experience with one bride that I’d created a personalized cake topper for; after the wedding, we kept in touch as Facebook friends. Two years later, she sent me a message saying that, because I was a meaningful part of their wedding, she wanted to personally let me know that she was pregnant. It was so exciting to know that I’d created an object that truly touched their hearts.
Where do you do your creating today, and what’s the most important tool in your workshop?
There are many important tools in my arsenal, but the most important are my mother’s crocheted tablecloths. I use these tablecloths as patterns for my clay creations: After I flatten the clay, I press the crocheted tablecloth against the clay so that its pattern is stamped onto the clay’s surface. Call me sentimental, but using the tablecloths my mother crocheted when I was a child adds a very personal touch to my work.
Leaf Candle Holders, from $32
What are your favorite sources, online or off, for design inspiration?
I get inspired by everything around me, but I’m most inspired by nature and color. When I walk my dog in the morning I take in the day’s colors, and when you look at my creations, you can see what I saw: the color of the sky on a sunny day or interesting cloud patterns… I also collect objects that I find on my daily walks to use in my work: The lemon tree leaves from my garden have become a part of my collection as candle holders. You can also probably guess that I love the color turquoise, as I use it in so many items — including the jewelry in my colorful jewelry shop, Boho Chic Chic.
Ceramics and pottery are a big trend these days. What advice would you give to an aspiring potter or ceramicist?
Working with clay allows your creativity to flourish, so go forward with no fear. If you love what you do, it will be reflected in your art.
What’s next on the horizon for your shop? Do you have any new developments coming for 2017?
My plans for 2017 are to learn new techniques and create new products. I have so many ideas that haven’t hit my work table yet. I can’t say more at this time, but believe me, you will love it!