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FRIEND OF ARQ FEATURE : Martina Thornhill

friend of arq feature : martina thornhill

Martina Thornhill is one of those ridiculously likeably (not a word you say?), cool people that you unapologetically stalk on Instagram because everything they touch turns to unfeigned, unfussy magic. The speed at which her fun and comforting ceramic vessels sells out is, therefore, completely understandable, and even when that means you missed out on that cup you neeeeded in the shopping frenzy, you find yourself cheering her on even in your moment of defeat. :) Below, we talk with Martina about her work, food, life, inspiration, and the pleasures of handwork. She’s our dream girl and is about to be yours too if she wasn’t already...


Your vessels really evoke that favorite cup or bowl at Grandmas house that one insists is for their use only! Did you have a favorite cup or dish growing up? Can you describe it/them?

My great-Grandmother’s glasses were always my favorite. They were that really thick old molded glass with textured designs around the center that always felt so good under my fingers. Sharp and smooth. She had them in a few colors, but I remember the amber glass the most and the way the light would glow through them when we were sitting in her kitchen. She had a set that were the perfect size for my little kid hands and I still think of them every time I make my little cups.

Every time we see one of your cup and saucers we have an immediate urge to cozy up with a warm drink and snack. What is currently your go-to warm beverage and snack-time favorite?

Cooking is my not-so-secret obsessive hobby and I’m always on the hunt for new recipes to try. I recently got Amy Chaplin’s new book Whole Food Cooking Every Day and variations on her seeded crackers have become my go to snack, slathered in what might be considered an obscene amount of butter. That and a cup of coffee mixed with her superfood chocolate milk. Feels like Im at the world’s hippest hippie coffee shop.

This months posy is entitled Oenemel - a word that means soft yet strong. We find your art and your choices of color to be such a perfect example of that word. Can you pinpoint one or two sources of inspiration that speak to the strength, yet gentleness of the pieces you create and the colors that you choose?

The color combos have been relatively new direction for me, but I love that description for them! I used to be so shy of color, but feel incredibly drawn to it these last few years. Maybe it’s the darkness of the times, or the bright moments of clarity motherhood seems to bring, but the call to color feels very real and very right. We found a Spanish children’s book series from the 70’s at a garage sale a few years back and the colors in many of the books are incredible. They’re the best Yellow Submarine-esque psychedelic combinations. I find myself coming back to those books anytime I’m feeling uninspired for color choices and they never fail me. One of my favorite things about working with clay, and handbuilding in particular, is how organic the final piece is. It always has a flow to it and you can tell a human hand has touched it. They feel infused with gentleness and patience just by the nature of the creation process.

There is something really timeless about your work. We can imagine them being handed down from ones great grandparent, and at the same time they are so fresh and so NOW. What period of time inspires your life and work the most?

I’ve always found the back to the land movement of the 60’s and 70’s very inspiring. A conscious rejection of consumerism and the status quo approach to life; and a celebration of living a more simple and intentional life. It feels like that was possibly easier to accomplish during that period of time, but I look to it when I think about my business and my life and what I want those two spheres to look like. How much stuff do I really need? How big does my business really need to grow? How do I find the sustainable balance between work and parenting and simply living life?

Of course the art and handcraft that came alongside that whole movement is also inspiring. Rampant color, organic materials, a sense of humor and a real reverence for surrounding yourself with beautiful things that were made by hand.

...and going deeper into that question of time, If you could travel back in time, where and when would you go, and what would you bring back with you?

I would go back to the 40’s and 50’s to Black Mountain College in Asheville, North Carolina and bring back all the inspiration.

*Film images shot in Martina's home with her sweet kiddo Dodge by Friend of ARQ Williejane Dent