• Dreamers + Doers: The Pursuits of Happiness

    Dreamers + Doers highlights emerging artists, entrepreneurs, and up-and-coming ones to watch. Whether it’s starting a new business, creating something beautiful, or just daring to do things differently, we stand behind those taking steps toward something new.

    Join us on a trip to April Brimer’s sprawling Portland studio, the home of The Pursuits of Happiness, to learn more about her path as an artist and get a behind-the-scenes look at her beautiful, hand-thrown ceramics.
    Photos by Christina Hicks

    Can you tell us a little bit more about yourself?
    I’ve moved around a bit in my life: Texas, California, Oregon, and Washington. I’m an animal lover, perpetual daydreamer, and a bit of an optimist. I’ve always worked creatively, and about a year and a half ago I started experimenting with ceramics. I became obsessed immediately and started my brand, The Pursuits of Happiness in the dining room of my Seattle apartment. Now, with the help of my boyfriend, we’re moving the business to Oregon and working to expand it.

    What were you doing before you decided to start working with clay?
    Photography was my primary medium before I picked up ceramics. As a teen I fell in love with photography and was rarely without a camera. I studied commercial photography in Seattle and went on to have a career doing fashion, product, and portrait photography.

    What led you to make that decision?
    I got really burned out by digital work. I was spending all my time on the computer and I couldn’t stand it anymore. I was craving something tangible and a more physical way of creating.

    Why is clay your preferred medium?
    Clay is uncomplicated and a very calming medium to work in. I like that the subject matter can be less literal - more of a mood or vibe that is conveyed through color and shape.

    If you had unlimited time and materials, what one thing would you create?
    I’d love to experiment with installation work. Large scale collages that hang along the wall or from the ceiling.

    Where do you see yourself in another five years? Do you ideally see yourself working as a full-time artist?
    Yeah, that is the dream! I’d like get my housewares business running smoothly and be able to work on a separate line of sculpture.

    Is there any advice that someone gave you that you’d like to pass on to other artists/creatives out there?
    A friend shared with me the advice of photographer Ryan McGinley. In essence, the advice was to figure out what’s uniquely yours and make your art with that. Success will never be found if you’re trying to imitate other artists or compete with other artists. I agree and have found that nothing is more satisfying than producing work that really comes from inside you. People will notice when it’s authentic.

    What about any advice for someone who may be in an unfulfilling job at the moment?
    Well, gosh, isn’t that most jobs? Try to make the most of your situation by learning what you can and getting whatever best experience you can get. Work on your own projects on the side. Get your fulfillment elsewhere. If you do have the ability, quit the dang job and get on to the next thing. Life is short and although a sense of stability is a powerful thing, jobs come and go.

    Can you tell us a little bit about how you describe your work?
    I hate to describe it in any way that put limits on it, because I’m really just getting started. There are so many ideas I want to try that I hardly know where to start. So far, marbled designs, colorful splotches, and polka dots have been themes I’m carrying through. The pieces have a very organic vibe because each one is slab built by hand - no pottery wheel.

    Who are some artists (or things!) that are currently inspiring you?
    My favorite sculptors I’ve come across recently are Betty Woodman and Matt Wedel. I’m personally inspired a lot by stucco, cob houses, gemstones, mid-century children’s illustrations, and a million other things.

    We love your studio location! Can you tell us about where you live?
    Thanks! It’s pretty much like paradise out here. We have a modest studio on some family property in the suburbs outside Portland, Oregon. Although we’re close to town, we’re surrounded by wheat fields and orchards so it feels way more rural than it is.

    And you recently moved, right? What made you decide to do so?
    Yep. I had been in Seattle for the better part of ten years and was ready for a change. Moving to Oregon meant we’d be close to my family and have access to better workspace. The opportunity to have a large vegetable garden and a more rural lifestyle was pretty enticing too.

    What are some of your favorite things about living the in the PNW?
    Fresh air, fresh seafood, down-to-earth people. There’s a real balance here between urban life and nature. It’s the best of both worlds.

    Can you tell us three things you’re currently into?
    In a very broad way my mind has been on conservation and sustainable living. I’m reading Barbara Kingsolver’s, “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle,” which I highly recommend to anyone that eats food. Besides environmental and social issues, I’ve been really into sparkling water and weird shades of the color pink.

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