She’s A Gem: Filipa Pimentel
I believe we’ve all had a woman who has inspired us, and in return, we should all want to be an inspiration to someone else. I believe in women helping women. Especially in this industry, collaboration over competition is such an important key to growth.
This year, I’m collaborating with my friend Filipa Pimentel—a phenomenal ceramics artist—on a very special collection. Each design will take time to develop and create so they will be released as they are completed. We just can't wait to share this magic with the world!
Although Filipa and I work with very different mediums—me with hard stones and metals, her with fluid, malleable clay—we both have a soft spot for artistic pieces that can add beauty to our daily surroundings. I loved hearing her describe her work as something that injects life and creativity into the everyday:
“This is what I always envisioned with my work. It is what I loved about studying in the material arts and design program at OCAD. The fact that you could make something artistic and beautiful - and then turn around and use it everyday - has always been the best part about what I do.
Most of my inspiration comes from my Portuguese heritage. The sea-like qualities in my work both consciously and unconsciously come from my time spent on the beaches of Portugal with my family. The ocean is my place for peacefulness and it always shows up in my work either through colour, texture or form.”
I continued to speak with her about her journey as an artist, mother, and business owner, and was utterly inspired by her dedication to creativity, work, and love. Below, I’ve summarized parts of our conversation and I hope you can find the inspiration you need from Filipa’s story, too.
Officially, Filipa joined the ceramics world when she graduated from the Material Arts and Design program at OCAD, but she’s been a creator for far longer.
“My entire life, I have been a maker of things, as a child and into my adolescence I was constantly trying new materials or techniques. So when I decided to transfer to the Material Arts and Design program in my second year at OCAD - I was in heaven. Initially, I thought I would major in jewellery, but by the end of the year I knew I would be majoring in ceramics. I spent as much time as possible in the studio.
I love the material itself. It is so versatile. I can make a sculpture or something functional, the possibilities are endless. I also love being able to manipulate the material with my bare hands - very few tools are needed to create work in clay.
If I were to narrow it down to one defining moment when I fell in love with clay - it would be during my second attempt at wheel throwing (because my first attempt was a total disaster). From that point onwards I was addicted and practiced almost everyday for hours. I wanted to become good enough to throw very thin porcelain pieces, and eventually, I succeeded.”
The road to success, however, is never easy. After graduating from her program, Filipa immediately had to overcome her first challenge.
“I graduated from OCAD in 2008 and then the stock market crashed in the fall of that year. Buying handmade ceramics is a luxury item so the sudden economic downturn I think impacted everyone in the arts community for a while. In an environment like that, it's so much harder as a new artist to get work into shops and to invest in participating in art shows.”
Luckily, she didn’t give up and secured a job as a full-time artist assistant. She pushed and she pushed, and in 2009, she finally started her own business, Filipa Ceramics.
After experiencing the rhythm of a full-time ceramic artist, Filipa became a mother just 7 years after starting her business. There’s only so much time on the hands of an artist, and things got difficult, but never impossible for Filipa.
“There were quite a few challenges. The first was trying to find time to be in the studio. I was so used to being in my studio all the time before having kids - it was a really difficult adjustment for me to only be able to work with clay a few hours here and there or get any time at all.
Probably the biggest challenge was the feeling of a loss of identity. As a full-time ceramic artist, my identity was very much tied to my craft and my productivity (the shows I did, sales, exhibitions etc.) All of a sudden I was unable to be productive or do the shows and exhibitions I had done before. It took me a long time to learn how to reframe the changes so that I didn't feel the loss of identity. Many new mothers go through this in some way - I think because my ceramic work is essentially an extension of myself put into clay form, it was a particularly difficult time for me.
Since 2018 I have had a full-time day job; which means that I now only take on projects and commissions in my ceramics business that are really meaningful to me. I have a fully equipped home studio, and I work on my business in the evenings (once the kids are in bed) and on the weekend. The decision to get a full-time day job outside of my field was a difficult one. However, it has also been liberating in some ways. I now have the opportunity to completely focus on work I am passionate about and love making. I know one day I will be a full time artist again, but for now this compromise is working for me and my family.”
The most inspiring part of my conversation with Filipa was hearing about her most vulnerable moments while trying to balance her work, life, and her passion for ceramics. This life isn’t easy, and it’s important that we can all be honest about it.
“I am not sure I would be a good example of someone who has found work life balance - I have yet to meet someone who has accomplished this! I guess if I were to give any advice it would be to avoid burn out at all costs. I speak from experience here. Dealing with burnout as a mother compared to burnout before I had kids - are two very different experiences.
My current long term goal is to eventually be back in the studio full time as well as teaching classes and workshops. I taught classes for over 10 years and I loved it, and miss it.”
Her honest advice for young artists is especially eye-opening, and crucial for the industry:
“Do as many artist residencies as you can before you have kids. If I have any regrets, it's that I didn't make an effort to take part in some residencies within Canada and abroad. It's much more challenging to do once you have kids.”
Even though neither of our journeys have stopped being challenging even for a day, Filipa and I are both glad to belong to a community that doesn’t know the meaning of “backing down.”
“I love being part of the supportive group of strong, like-minded women I have found in the last couple of years. More than ever, women are coming together, supporting each other, promoting each other and collectively pushing forward in the changes we want to see in society and in business.
I create my ceramics with peacefulness and calm in mind - it is my happy place. I think this translates in the design and texture of my work, and when someone is using one of my pieces, they experience the same feelings.”
In short: resilience, inspiration, and ever-evolving support. Filipa is the perfect example of “Women Providing Healing, Promoting Hope.”