Photographs by Nicole Helen Brunner
Nicole Helen Brunner is the owner and maker behind Wild Bower Studio in Bushwick, Brooklyn and (newly) the Catskills, New York. Even amidst the holiday hustle, Nicole made some time to share with us today.
Marcus Im: You’ve had a pretty wild year. What are some things you’ve been up to?
Nicole Helen Brunner: Yeah, 2019 has been a wild rollercoaster of a year - that’s for sure! Up until quite recently, I was focused on creating and running our Bushwick studio. In late June, my life partner and I were offered the opportunity to buy our dream home in the Catskills, and now I’m building out our second studio space. It’s been an exciting time to say the least.
MI: Can you tell us a bit about your studios? What’s it like running a studio?
NHB: Of course! As I mentioned we now have two studio spaces - our community studio and my private studio.
Our community studio is located in Bushwick and is home to about 30 very talented ceramists from many different backgrounds and skill levels. Our mission in this space is to provide an ample amount of room, opportunity, and support so that each of our artists can explore and grow their craft.
I have a lot of “pinch me moments” when it comes to this community space. As expected, running a community studio comes with a whirlwind of emotions and opportunities for problem solving, which can be thrilling, hard, and exhausting, but honestly, it’s mostly fulfilling. It’s important to remind yourself that ceramics can be wild - chemicals change, equipment breaks, deadlines are tight - it’s a constant learning experience for everyone.
What’s even more amazing is that now, as a studio, we’re growing to include a second space nestled away in the beautiful Catskills. For the most part this studio will be for my private workspace, but beginning in the Spring of 2020 we’ll be hosting our members and other ceramists.
MI: Why is the Bushwick studio important to you?
NHB: Pottery in general has changed my life, and our Bushwick studio space has done the same. I’m constantly floored by the work that is created here along with the people who come with it. I didn’t expect how much I was going to learn from the artists that call this studio home. They are always pushing, experimenting, and discovering new things that I might have never tried.
MI: We’ve talked a bunch about the connection to your community. What about the community drives you?
NHB: Seeing our community excel and accomplish their goals, both in ceramics and life keeps me going. Overall, we’re friends who cheer each other on, offer advice, experiment together, and help keep each other grounded. Like I mentioned, ceramics can be wild and things are constantly changing, so having a group like this is very important.
MI: And now you live in the Catskills. What went into that decision?
NHB: Yeah - crazy! My partner and I moved to the Catskills in late August. We’ve always dreamt of living in the wilderness and of having a bit more space to explore the things that we are interested in like large sculptures, textiles, farming (goats & chickens), gardening, and foraging. We’ve got a list of things to do.
MI: What about community? How are things going to be different? What are you excited about?
NHB: This new journey just opens up more room to build and add to the community. The ability to do so was vital as to why we decided to purchase our property. We have grandiose plans of being able to offer more ways of firing, time away from New York City, and time for ceramists to explore their craft.
MI: What will you miss about Bushwick?
NHB: So much! Bushwick is a force of nature, full of amazing artists, energy, and always changing. Luckily, I get to experience the best of both worlds and don’t plan to leave Bushwick anytime soon. I’ll still be creating in the Buchwick studio often and am thrilled to be able to keep up with our community and watch them grow.
MI: You’re refreshing your personal practice too?
NHB: I think it’s very hard not to hit refresh after moving from Bushwick to the country. Everything here is so different from the silence to the pace to the weather. We certainly didn’t expect to have 15” of snow the first week of December, but each new moment creates a fire of inspiration within me.
I’ve become an avid bird watcher and couldn’t imagine how many birds would be out in the snow up here. I’m so inspired by their coloring, movements, and sounds. I feel the same about the plant life and foraging around our property. Watching the texture created by the layering of trees and the way they sway in the wind. There are all these things in nature that I felt so disconnected from and now I am starting to rebuild those bonds. So, yes, I don’t think I could stop my practice from getting a refresh. I’ve even taken up knitting and quilting for the colder days and nights.
MI: How will it affect what you’re planning for 2020?
NHB: It’s hard to say what will happen but I’ve already seen the influence of these experiences on my work and what I want and plan to explore. I do have some goals for 2020. Currently, I’m in the process of refining and really deciding what are the core Wild Bower products. I’m playing around with colors and shapes with hopes to release limited edition items in seasons.
Some big happenings for 2020 will be the ability to rent our serving, dinnerware, and table decor for events, staging, and photoshoots. We’ll still be offering wholesale to retailers, working with chefs and restaurants, looking for opportunities to collaborate, and of course my favorite, working directly with individuals. Within the last 3 months so much has changed and opened up. I’m just letting the path unfold and enjoying each discovery.
MI: Will it change who you’re working with?
NHB: Yes and no, part of Wild Bower is expanding but we will still work with a lot of the same people that we have in the past. Everything we’ve been working on boils down to providing a better quality of product and experience for our customers and friends. With these new endeavors, it opens us up to the opportunity to connect with even more incredibly talented folks, explore new ideas, and bring more ceramics into your life.
MI: What are you most excited about with the new direction?
NHB: I’m not sure if there is one part of this direction that I’m not excited about. Each day working on your own business and in ceramics is a day to learn something. I love how being a ceramist and business owner can be both challenging and easy but in the end I find this path to be incredibly rewarding, plus I get the opportunity to meet some of the most interesting and talented people.
MI: As your adventures unfold, where should people go to follow along?
NHB: Follow us on your favorite social media platform (instagram, twitter, facebook, tiktok) @WildBowerStudio
Visit our website www.WildBowerStudio.com. I post regularly about this journey on our journal so that’s a great section to visit. Sign up for our mailing list so you can stay informed about new products and events (you’ll also get 15% off your online order).
MI: Thanks so much for your time, Nicole. Anything else you want to share?
NHB: Yes, just real quick - Thank you! I’m incredibly humbled to be able to share my love of ceramics with others. This is a wild dream that just keeps growing and I’m very thankful to everyone who sticks around for the journey.