Behind The Scenes With The Pursuits of Happiness

You've probably seen April Brimer's work around. This Portland-based photographer-turned-ceramicist has a way of churning out pieces that are completely memorable and completely covetable, and lots of folks are taking note – Urban Outfitters included.

I'm a huge fan of April, her aesthetic, and her ceramics line The Pursuits of Happiness – everything from the color palettes to the way she curates her Instagram feed feels beautiful, purposeful, and completely on-brand. In other words, this gal has got it. 

In honor of the relaunch of her online shop, April tells me about her transition from photography to ceramics, one of her favorite movies (which is one of mine, too!), and why she's excited about kindness:

Hey April! Tell me about your background, both in photography and with ceramics. How did you make the transition from photographer to ceramic artist?

I became obsessed with photography in high school and could think of no suitable occupation besides being a photographer. I went to college for commercial photography, worked hard at it, and spent the following years shooting whatever fashion and product photography work I could find in Seattle.

At the end of 2013 I was coming off of about three years straight of incessantly shooting and retouching. I was tired of the computer, digital files, beauty standards, and interpreting other people’s visions. At that point I didn’t feel the same creative drive to create imagery that I had always had before.

I became curious about ceramics after seeing really interesting work being displayed at the Totokaelo store in Seattle. The work was really inspiring and approachable and I wanted to try it out myself. I literally just went to the closest art supply store and bought a bag of clay and a tool kit. I started making things in my apartment and posting photos on Instagram. Clay was really satisfying to work with and the enthusiasm I got from friends motivated me to keep going. Two years later I’m still learning as I go, but I work on getting better everyday. I can see myself doing more photography in the future, but I’m giving it a rest for now.


What has it been like moving from one creative line of work to another?

Ceramics offered me a very different outlet where I could just boil everything down to form and color. Now I can turn my creative energy into a tactile object that can be held and used. It's extremely satisfying. 

Have you found any similarities in your photography work and your ceramic work? Any parts of the process that feel familiar?

The concepting and planning is similar for each. I spend a lot of time daydreaming and sketching out little ideas. The highs and lows of creating are similar, too. It's a bummer when something doesn’t turn out as well as you hoped, and a total rush when it does.

The colors and designs used in your pieces feel unique and unlike just about anything else out there. Do you have a main source of inspiration? 

I’ve been mentally collecting little bits of inspiration my entire life. The weird, the kitschy, and the mysterious has always caught my attention. It could be the scalloped molding on an out-of-place building, topiaries, or a kitschy seashell sculpture in a souvenir shop. My ceramic pieces aren’t literal translations of my influences, but I want them to evoke the same kind of happiness and wonder I get when I’m inspired. 


You already have some big collaborations under your belt (Urban Outfitters, for one), but if you could collaborate with any person or brand who would it be?

The ladies at Sight Unseen have a dynamite vision and it would be a dream to collaborate with them somehow.

What's the one thing you want people to walk away knowing about your work?

The price point of my ceramics is higher than a lot of brands and I think that can be confusing to some people if they don’t understand the process behind things. My designs require very slow methods of building and the quantities I produce are extremely limited. So what I’d like people to understand is that every one of my pieces is unique and limited edition, and is priced accordingly. 

And just for fun:


What’s one book everyone should read? One movie?

I recently loved reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver and I loved Beginners (by Mike Mills) for making me feel all the feelings.


If you weren’t living in the Pacific N.W. (Seattle, now Portland) where would you live?

I like the idea of living anywhere for a year just for the experience of it. I’ve had a fantasy of living in Miami ever since I did some photography work out there. Its about as different as you can get within the continental US. 


Anyone out there who you think is killing it right now?

There’s so many excellent creatives and makers producing beautiful work. What I’m really stoked on are the people that are practicing kindness with everyone around them. People promoting sustainable lifestyles and speaking up for human rights, animal welfare, and conservation. I’m as obsessed with creativity and style as the next person, but I also strongly feel we need to look at the bigger picture outside ourselves more often.

Thank you, April!


Shop The Pursuits of Happiness here and follow April here

Images via Pavel Cherny