The Interrogator with Nicholas Newcomb

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It is difficult to say why handmade ceramics, with all their imperfections, have had such a resurgence in the last few years. You could suppose, though, that it’s one of many small, subconscious responses to the increasingly non-tactile world we find ourselves in. Today, we check ourselves out at grocery stores, cash paychecks on our cell phones, use apps to do every errand under the sun. Our lives are stored in unseen “clouds.” The less human interaction, it seems, the better. But all this tech-enabled efficiency begins to wear thin. We long for something, but can’t articulate it, though, if you asked us, it’s a desire to feel something real.

And so there is something reassuring then, when assessing a beautiful object, in imagining real fingers working a physical material into shape. Happily, you then imagine the person behind the fingers–a creative in a dusty studio somewhere, a spinning wheel before them. How refreshing! How charming! How utterly human! New York-based ceramicist Nicholas Newcomb can be felt in everything he produces. The hombre motif on a series of vases varies from piece to piece, like siblings, not twins. The rims of bowls wobble ever so slightly in places. Flour canisters feel like weighty treasures, not IKEA throwaways. These are things you keep forever, because you can sense the effort that’s gone into creating them.

The care Newcomb puts into his work has paid off. His wares are carried at some of the choicest stores across the United States, including Aero, Barneys, and Primary Essentials in Brooklyn. Last month, we were lucky enough have him host a ceramics event at SIXTY LES, and we hope he returns. Until then, he kindly let us into his studio for our latest edition of The Interrogator to talk pavement vegetables, little league sweets, and his high opinion on a rather unsavory shade.

ceramic pieces by Nicholas Newcomb on shelves

Place of residence:

Ditmas, Brooklyn. I love it here. It’s like if you take the buzzing energy of the city and turn it down from a ten to a six. Folks are friendly and get that we all work hard and just want a calm neighborhood to come home to.

Current occupation:

Artist Potter. I make pots for a living. And I approach it like an artist.

ceramic plates and vases on table

First job you ever had:

I scooped ice cream at the town local spot. It was tradition for winning little league teams to celebrate with loads of ice cream. I loved serving the eager players and the proud parents who treated the teams to desert. It was a joyful blend of community, commerce, and indulgence.

Where’s your current studio?

Bushwick, Brooklyn. I love the optimism in the neighborhood. Across the street, some older gents repair and sell bicycles out of their garage. Next door, a couple grows vegetables in every crack of pavement. And, on the corner, a graffiti shop invites artists to paint their exterior every other week. It’s a community of dreamers living their best lives.

Nichola Newcomb working in ceramics studio

What would your dream studio look like?

My dream studio would have a full kitchen and hired expert to oversee the general health of the studio. They would be in charge of putting together seasonal lunches and snacks, overseeing the studio music, and looking into ways the studio can engage with the community.

What subway are we most likely to find you on?

I dig the Q.

ceramic studio paints and brushes on shelves

What’s for breakfast?

Something on the go.

What material do you go through the most of?

Money.

unpainted ceramics on metal racks

Color you’re most interested in at the moment:

Puke Green. It’s a hard one to pin down.

You have a million dollars to spend on art, you buy…

I’d do a deep dive on Andreas Gursky. I can’t pick one right now.

Nicholas Newcomb standing next to ceramic molds on metal racks

What book/ film/ work of art most recently captured your attention and why?

George Saunders’s Fox 8. It’s perfect. It’s me.

What’s the best piece of advice you were ever given?

“It’d be a lot cooler if you were a lot cooler.”

Photos by Atisha Paulson for SIXTY Hotels

Jenny Bahn

Jenny Bahn

Jenny Bahn is a writer and editor based in Brooklyn, specializing in music, fashion, the arts, and culture, both high and low. Her work has been featured in Cereal, Lenny Letter, and more.

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