Voloshin Woman: Gabrielle Silverlight

I first met Gabrielle after seeing her beautiful work on Instagram and I was also enthralled with her amazing apartment. I ended up connecting with her to do a photoshoot at her space and was so smitten with her amazing baking, knack for home decor, and her intricate and feminine ceramics line. Read more to hear about her creative process and personal style! -Amy Voloshin

When did you start your line of ceramics? What brought you to this medium?

I studied glassblowing at Massachusetts College of Art in Boston—the program was very sculpture focused and I was able to explore different mediums and the idea of combining them. A year or so after graduating, I moved to Philadelphia and started working at fine arts bronze casting foundry and worked there for the next almost 9 years. At the foundry, I was able to cast my own sculptures and started making more work in bronze, which I combined with glass, particularly kiln cast glass. I mostly worked in the wax department and realized I enjoyed that part of the casting process the best—more so than metal working, etc. I liked the hands-on aspect of sculpting with the material.

Then, I started exploring casting metal into jewelry and began to think about combining it with other materials like clay since I especially appreciate the juxtaposition of contrasting materials like smooth shiny metal with the sandy/earthy textures of some clays. The more I worked with clay the more I was drawn to it and thought about how I could translate some of my glass and bronze sculptures into ceramic or at least add some elements of ceramic into them. From there, it just took off and I was fully immersed in a love affair with clay, so I found ways to access what I needed to make my ceramic work and slowly built up my studio with the equipment to produce everything in there. 

How do you approach developing a new design? What’s your process like? 

When developing a new design, I find inspiration in nature by observing plants and landscapes, particularly coastal ones, and sometimes look to artists and art movements of the past, architecture and geometry. In my mind, all of these ideas are floating around but I don’t usually draw from any one specific source. My approach to new forms and designs is very intuitive—I explore shapes, patterns and color combinations and experiment with those ideas while also being open to let the clay and process guide the results. One piece often informs the next.

For example, currently I’ve been making a series where I use an inlay/overlay technique (i.e. various clay bodies and hand tinted clays inlaid or overlaid into/on larger slabs of contrasting clay bodies) and though I made a series of inlay work previously, I was mostly making pieces where the patterns and colors are created from painting underglazes onto surfaces that I altered dimensionally. My current body of work is simply an extension of my previous work, a different means to an end. I’ve also found a certain freedom in this process—when I paint glazes, it is very painstaking and exact, whereas with this process the patterns and shapes have a bit more spontaneity and the color is applied in a more sculptural approach, which I really enjoy.

You have a really beautiful sense of color, how did you develop that?

Thinking about color has always been part of my life. I come from a family of artists and musicians and my mother created a home where thinking about the space and the colors in it was always present. I actually entered art school thinking I would focus my degree in painting but quickly realized that I wanted to express myself three-dimensionally and suppose in some ways my sculptural work became a translation or at least stemmed from a background in painting and drawing.

I’m kind of all over the place with color—I couldn’t ever commit to just one palette but do tend to lean towards colorful pastels mixed with neutral tones or on the opposite spectrum bold bright blues, blacks and whites. All of my color combinations are very considered and a lot of meditation goes into finding what colors feel best with each other. I do reference nature and vignettes I see in the world but really it all comes down to feeling it out until it feels just right.

You share a workspace with your partner—any advice for couples looking to work together?

I think Brian (my husband) and I really lucked out with each other, haha! I hear some people say how they could never be around their partner all day almost everyday but we’ve always just gotten along so well and have also been friends for so long (we actually went to high school together and found out recently pre-school for a year too!). For years, Brian toured much of the year with his band so we know what it’s like to be apart, but when that ended we immediately settled into our new rhythm. The truth is that for the most part we’re both in our own heads for most of the day, so even though we are working in the same space, were each doing our own thing (Brian owns and operates his guitar effect pedal company smallsound/bigsound and is also a keyboardist).

That being said, Brian is so supportive of my business and always lends a helping hand with everything from an ear to run ideas by, to anything computer and graphic design related, to helping me shlep heavy things out to my car for markets and making sure I eat when I get too busy or stressed! Often work and life get very blurred as we are both workaholics and even though we are around each other all the time, it’s not always quality time, so the advice I would have for couples working together is to make the time to be together away from the studio, phones and computers and just enjoy each other and try to be present in those moments. 

What's a typical day like for you?

Our typical day consists of waking up and having serious snuggle time with our cat Miss Mabel—she’s amazing and just the sweetest little thing and throughout the day we take joy in our moments with her. Brian is a great cook and makes most of our meals. I enjoy cooking but I’m always amazed how he can casually throw together a healthy and hearty meal with seemingly little effort, whereas it’s always a bigger production when I cook and seems to take forever. After breakfast, we pretty much work straight through the day, often into the later evening, as we are both night people even though I’ve been trying to be more of a morning person lately. We often take walking breaks together to break up the day and get some exercise.

It’s been nice living in our live/work loft space for the past few years as it’s been a special place to us and the first new place we moved after we got married. But, we're also looking forward to having a little more separation of our living space from our workspace. We have been working on renovating a house with a next-door studio space in the Fishtown neighborhood that we we’ll be moving into soon. It will be a studio and also a retail/showroom space for both our businesses as well as other pedal/synth gear and hopefully many possibilities for small events and other arts. We are both really excited to finally share it with everyone! 

In the time you’ve had your line how has the industry changed? 

The market is a bit more saturated, but I think if you stay true to your own vision that you’ll be recognized for your own unique approach. I do think it can be a good thing though, as it can create a supportive community and make customers more aware of the process and what goes into making handmade ceramics and more outlets (markets, shops etc) that inform and promote this type of work to the public. In the end, I believe having more art in the world is always a good thing!  

What’s the hardest lesson you’ve learned in your years of being in business?

There are many lessons and I’m still being schooled on them, but learning to manage my time the best I can and knowing when to say no or at least being realistic about how much I can take on at once is important. Edit, edit, edit! I tend to have many ideas at once that I want to get out but figuring out the strongest ones and focusing on and developing them is usually more successful than being all over the place at once. Lastly, and I think this is one I've always known, just showing up every day and working hard, there’s really no way around that, but that it's just as important to take a break sometimes to clear and refresh your mind and spirit.

What is your definition of success?

I suppose it’s always evolving but at the moment it’s to be creating work that I love that provides me with a living, to be excited and challenged by what I create and to maintain a healthy life/work balance.

Do you have a favorite article of clothing?

My Voloshin Setsuko dress was certainly a favorite last summer—so gorgeous and flowy and I can’t wait to wear it again once the weather is warm!  Also, a vintage ivory satin blouse that was my grandmother’s and my Atelier Delphine indigo Haori coat.  

Favorite type of shoe?

Clogs clogs clogs! 

What do you do for exercise?

I try to make sure to remind myself to stop and stretch throughout the day and do my own pseudo yoga. I’m a big fan of long power walks and aerobics videos (80’s and 90’s ones are always fun). It’s been a little while since I’ve taken a group exercise class but it’s something I’d like to start up again. In the summer, I make use of my local public pool and try to get some laps in.  

What do you do to relax and recharge?

Going to the beach whenever I can as I find being near (and in) the ocean and really any body of water calms me down and makes me feel refreshed. Also, having friends over for dinner or parties because I really love to entertain. For a quick fix, a good long walk and quality snuggle time with Miss Mabel always does the trick. I love creating a home in which the decor invites a sense of relaxation and calm, so arranging objects with intention is a relaxer for me. I also love plants and have amassed quite a few and find caring for them and being around them is relaxing and recharging. 

You are an amazing baker, what have you been cooking lately? How do you discover new recipes? 

Thanks! I’m looking forward to summer and fruit season and making sure I bake a lot of pies when I have more spare time! (I would also add this to my list of things I do to relax!) I did make some cream puffs recently though that were delicious. I’m kind of all over the place when it comes to discovering new recipes—I’ll look at different cooking social media accounts and blogs, America’s Test Kitchen and a few random cook books I have, and in particular Smitten Kitchen has been a longtime go-to for me as I’ve never gone wrong with one of her recipes! 

I love the music you have on in your studio whenever I visit. What’s currently on your playlist?

I’ve been listening to a lot of Orchestra Baobab and Cesária Évora. Charles Mingus has been on heavy rotation, and in particular lately I can’t stop listening to his album ‘The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady’. And also my pal Kacey Johansing, she creates really magical, beautiful music.

You can follow along with Gabrielle's creative journey on Instagram, and purchase her ceramics at her online shop.

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