Written by: Rachelle Sparks
Tossing worries in the clay is just part of the process so believes Emily Brown, an artist, collector and importer of exotic ceramics from around the world.
“It’s a mind’s vacation,” she explains. And where the mind wanders, Brown takes you — Italy, Spain, Mexico, France.
Brown essentially carries pottery sometimes by hand from these beautiful countries across the ocean and into your home — full of the culture, the traditions, the people, the way of life.
She travels abroad and personally meets and buys from artists who strike her as creating the most authentic, beautiful ceramics that she believes serve a very special purpose.
“They begin in a little town in rural France,” Brown says. “They’re thrown on a wheel, painted by hand and turned into bowls that you can serve from. They make their way to a table in California.”
Bowls, vases, platters, dishes — she imports it all. And while it’s an ocean away from eating with the locals, the pond just got a little smaller.
“I wanted to connect people with real artists and with the rich traditions of these cultures,” Brown says. “San Francisco is a great example of a place where people appreciate that connection with authenticity.”
Referring to the city’s recent locavore food movement of knowing the ingredients of our every meal and which farm it comes from, Brown says buying genuine ceramics from true artists is no different. “It’s a back-to-the-basics of knowing exactly what’s in your house. When it says Montelupo, Italy, it means made in Italy without that “generic, factory-created, ‘just look, don’t touch’ feel.”
“Each one is different and they have smudges here and there that show they’re made by real human hands,” Brown says. “There’s something about that that makes you want to hold it and enjoy it and share a meal with your family and friends. You know, kind of slow down a little bit.”
Born into a family of artists and ceramicists, Brown has always had a passion for both but it wasn’t until a stint in Spain after graduating from Princeton University that she realized her passion and purpose — importing.
However, going into business for herself was intimidating. So Brown joined the corporate world, got into something she thought would be “very sexy,” and worked in advertising for the next four years until “hierarchy, lots of bosses and working indoors” got the best of her.
Brown quit her job, took the plunge and went overseas, where the people welcomed her with open arms and guiding hands. She befriended locals in the bars and on the streets, and through personal connection and word of mouth, found artists who were interested in sharing their work with the rest of the world.
“It’s a total high for me,” she says of the process. “But part of my passion for this goes beyond the ceramics. It’s as much about the culture and connecting with the people.”
It was through them that she became “Emilia” — one of them — and as the saying goes, it’s all in a name.
Shop Emilia Ceramics online at emiliaceramics.com or schedule a viewing by calling 415.292.7828