Maker Crush - Aleisha Ellis of Utility Objects

One of the more unexpected results of the recent BLM movement has been an uptick in my own awareness of other small, black-owned businesses around the world. When I happened across the IG account of Utility Objects, I'm pretty sure I yelped when I came across images of their beautifully handcrafted pet bowls (which I'm thrilled to feature in the online shop next month!). On today's Maker Crush, we're catching up with founder Aleisha Ellis to chat about her ceramics practice, a recent social justice campaign she led, and shonen jump anime. 

Describe Utility Objects and tell me why you launched your business.

Utility Objects is a minimal home goods shop providing handmade pottery to those wanting to spruce up their living space. I launched my business out of the desire to share my artwork with my local community. Starting at artisan markets, I really enjoyed sharing my craft making experience and bringing this primitive art form into the hands of others to use in their homes.   



How long have you been a ceramicist? Have you always enjoyed working with your hands?

I’ve been a ceramicist for a little over 4.5 years now. Prior to being introduced to pottery in college I was an architectural photographer taking photos of manufactured spaces and woodworking sculptures for the photos to adhere to making them more three dimensional. I guess you can say I always tried finding a way to work with my hands.


Tell me about your design inspirations and the Shibui aesthetic  - it seems as though natural colors and subtle textures play a large part in your designs.  

I love a design that is all about the form. Therefore the Japanese shibui ceramic style really stuck out to me. A lot of works described under this concept are all very natural and formed very well. I tend to get very distracted by the wide range of glaze colors available to us and it makes one forget about the actual intention or action of the potter making a vessel. It’s a reason I use very minimal glaze coloring and work more with the clay’s natural color and texture.   

Can you talk a bit about your recent “Tumblers Against Injustice” campaign?

Following the pandemic was more police brutality. I wanted to support organizations fighting for racial equality so I responded by making a big investment in a potter's kiln and making work from my apartment. At the time I had little savings but wanted to give back so I started this campaign making natural (black) basaltic tumblers monogrammed with black lives matter. It was a success that I sold all of the pots I made so I decided to make the campaign  permanent, or at least until systematic racism is abolished. 


What’s your favorite part of being a small business owner?

Community! I love that being a small business owner you can sort of recognize the hard work other people do who own a business. There is a higher level of appreciation that you have for every little thing they've done to get where they are. I just love to see the community relationship with small businesses. The support exists and it continues to grow stronger each year.

What’s your current guilty pleasure?

Okay I love watching shonen jump anime. It is such a guilty pleasure of mine but I’m a mid 90’s kid so anime is all I grew up on. 

Follow Object Utility on IG

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