Lockdown Stories: Ruby Pilven

“The past six months have been an interesting journey filled with tears of anxiety and tears of joy” says Ruby. The ceramic artist had just finished making her Easter orders in March 2020, when Australia went into lockdown for the first time. Her stockists were forced to close and she was “absolutely devastated”.

Those stockists who could accepted her work and Ruby made the rest available online, unsure about whether it would all sell. She launched an online Easter sale, to replace her annual Easter open studio and “the response was great! People bought!" Ruby says. Ruby has since seen a definite change in purchasing behaviour – customers are keen to buy products that are handmade locally, keen to support small businesses. "It’s a nice shift to see,” she smiles.

Ruby also noticed an increase in gift buying. She offered a home delivery service and gave customers the option of adding a personal message to their purchase. “Personalising and making things special during a difficult time is key to making people feel welcome and appreciated” she says.

Physical storefronts remained closed after Easter in Australia, so Ruby found she had some much needed time on her hands (time that would normally have been spent crafting orders). She used this time to focus on her exhibition, Madeleine Cruise & Ruby Pilven: The Golden Pantomime at The Art Gallery of Ballarat. “I could slow down my mind and pace and make pieces that I really wanted to make" Ruby says.

The Golden Pantomime is a showcase of artworks produced by Ruby and fellow artist Madeleine Cruise, "a room full of colour, gold, joy and humour" says Ruby. The artists worked individually and in response to each other’s work on pieces that reflect the stories of their lives and ways of thinking, and Ballarat, their home town. Ruby’s porcelain and stoneware ceramic pieces are based on both historical and imagined forms. The exhibition runs August to November 2020.

The exploration and development of new ideas has inspired Ruby to continue to make and experiment with new styles. New pieces include psychedelic landscape bowls and plates crafted using a combination of different Nerikomi techiniques, a Japanese design style that involves stacking layers of clay and slicing through them.

Ruby is all too aware that the Covid crisis is likely to have a severe impact on global mental health. "At the moment a lot of people around the world and particularly in Australia are suffering from mental health issues. There is not enough support to meet demand, and more money needs to be injected into the mental health system in Australia" she says. So for three weeks in October she donated 50% of her online sales to Beyond Blue, a local charity dedicated to improving the lives of those affected by anxiety, depression and suicide.

Shop Ruby Pilven at Arlette Gold.