FRIEND OF ARQ FEATURE: Alexandria Cummings

alexandria cummings

Alexandria has the most charming presence that is reflected in every aspect of her work. Complex (read: bright-AND-earthy) colors for pieces that are uniquely beautiful and sturdy enough for everyday use– made with, given with, received with love <3. Not only is she a skilled craftswoman but she shares her stories with such grace we can’t help but be in love with this feature. You will too! Enjoy…

So excited to get to chat with you today, Alexandria! We’ve been friends over Instagram for quite a while and it’s nice to get to connect in this way. Your namesake business is a project about creating useful tools for the home, and a space where you display your keen sense of the delicate overlap between bright and earthy colors ;-). Your artistry is unmistakable in every single piece. Can you tell us about the process that led you to open up your own ceramics studio and build your business to be the way it is today? 

I come from Michigan. As a kid I spent some of my most cherished time with my great grandmother and grandfather both of whom were artists. Great Grandma Bonnie was a ceramist and around the house we always used her dishes so I’ve always had hand-made pottery close at hand. I didn’t have much of a plan when I started college. Ceramics was the family tradition so I pursued that along with art education. Several years later, after moving to Portland I had started a ceramics studio with a friend. I was always improving and demand was growing. Things naturally progressed until eventually I made the decision to make this my primary focus.

Pottery has always had a way of connecting me with family. When my business was beginning and Great Grandma was still alive I was able to call her and work through problems together. I was fortunate for my business to grow as it has but ceramics also connects me to a long family tradition and that is meaningful for me.

The past two years have been complicated and treacherous in ways we never could’ve imagined, yet, so many people have had the time and space to prioritize things they couldn’t have in the past. As we move closer to the end of 2021, reflection on the year lingers in the mind. Do you feel like 2021 has given you space to thrive in areas of your life that you hadn’t had time for in the past? What has that space meant to you?

Like millions of other people, 2020 had a huge impact in my life. I lost my dad to Covid early in the pandemic and everything changed. I think I felt really out of body, as though I didn’t know who I was or what mattered to me. Alternatively, 2021 has been a year of rebuilding. 

Before 2020 I showed up for people differently and I was a workaholic but its changed now. The space I’ve looked for in 2021 is more about healthy boundaries and personal connection. I try to be present with the people in my life and true to my own needs. In my business I’ve stopped doing as much wholesale and focus more on direct sales. The business suffered a bit but now things are great and I really benefit from the connection I gain with the people who buy my stuff. Kind people share with me their reflections on beginning their day with a sip from something I made, and the happiness that brings them lifts me up. I like to make people happy with the stuff I make.

To some it’s cooking, to some it’s playing an instrument, woodworking, bread-making, weaving… there’s something about the tactile escape that is working with your hands. Has ceramics always been your art form of choice? Do you have other “tactile escapes” that you like to take on in the day to day, to relax, meditate, de-stress, etc.?

It’s true, I am always busy doing something with my hands. I am in the league of those who started out the pandemic on sourdough who have now moved on to baking cakes. I love to work in the garden sowing veggies and flowers. I’m often taking on new projects, for a while I was weaving baskets, but the truth is more than anything else I am in my studio. I like to experiment with new shapes, new objects and make special items for friends and loved ones. This year I’ve tackled cake stands and fermentation crocks. Butter bells are on my list. Haptic activity is my work, both my stress activity and my de-stress activity. Such is life.

Not only does the end-of-year sentiment bring a lot of reflection, it also brings a lot of dreaming. What are you dreaming about for 2022 and beyond? Do you have major goals you’ve set for yourself already, big plans for the coming year, or will you just be taking things on in stride as they come? Sometimes no plan is the best plan, they say, but alas– some of us are planners :-) 

My big excitement in 2022 is our plan to build a new ceramics studio. I have been dreaming of skylights. 

Also in 2022 I want to introduce new colors, new glazes. I want to get more dinnerware into more peoples homes. But mostly I want to take things in stride and as they come. If the last few years have taught me anything it is that plans will change. I will continue to fly by the seat of my pants and see what comes of it.

Alexandria on Instagram: @alexandriacummingsceramics 
Alexandria’s Website:
Photos by: @alexxandrawho