Tactile and Textured Functional Art for the Table

With a mother who was an artist, Leah Nobilette says creating things was an integral part of her childhood. “My mother introduced me to art early, and we were always either taking art classes or just creating things,” says the ceramic artist. “I’ve always loved making things. When I was a child, I was really into making little pieces of furniture out of sticks. I called it Fairy Furniture. I’ve always been very tactile in my art. I like art where you can touch the materials.”

Nobilette’s family moved from Michigan to Colorado when she was in high school, and it was in Colorado that she began to study ceramics. She graduated from Western State College of Colorado with a B.F.A. in ceramics and a B.A. in art education. “Since I moved to Portland six years ago, I’ve also been working as a substitute art teacher,” she says. “It’s fun to go into the classroom and see what students are working on.”

Nobilette works in a studio in Southeast Portland, which she shares with six other ceramic artists. She specializes in functional pieces such as cups, bowls and vases (often with super-small Hershey’s Kisses-like spikes that she applies with a pastry bag on the outside of the vessel). Each piece is hand-thrown from white clay on a kickwheel, fired, glazed and
then fired again. “I love all the stages clay goes through,” she says. “It’s very comforting to work with. You start with squishy, soft clay and turn it into something permanent that’s beautiful and functional.”

She glazes the insides of her Spiky Bowls in a vibrant turquoise, applegreen or orange. Her round or oval Spiky Vases (pictured), however, are always left white. “I leave my vases white to highlight their texture,” she says. Spiky Vases measure 2, 3 and 4 inches tall and cost $35 to $65.

Contact ceramic artist Leah Nobilette at Her pieces can also be seen at Relish (1715 N.W. Lovejoy St., 503-227-3779) and at Tilde (7919 S.E. 13th Ave., 503-234-8600) in Portland.