Meet the Maker: Peyton Flynn of Cloud 9 Ceramics

Wed Dec 02, 2020

The first time we saw the work of Peyton Flynn — whose Philadelphia ceramics studio goes by the name of Cloud 9 Clay — we were immediately drawn to the iridescence. Flynn had been making vases, cups, and dishes with a high-gloss rainbow sheen, and along with her marbleized and flowered pieces they struck just the right balance of good design and pure, unapologetic fun.

Luckily Flynn was equally a fan of Tetra, and so she agreed to collaborate with us on a new piece: a smoke set consisting of her hut-shaped pipe nested into a delicately ribbed ashtray, one in our favorite shade of yellowy lime green and one in an oil-slick iridescent black. To mark the launch of the set, we interviewed her about her love of clay, her inspirations, and her smoking rituals.

Photos by Samantha Meduri and Alina Parfenov (product shots) and Alesan Rose (portraits/process shots)

When did you know you wanted to do something creative, and how did you get started in your current practice?
I've always struggled to see myself doing most other jobs long term, so finding something creative almost felt like the only option. I started working with clay early in high school. I loved it so much, and over the years always wanted to stay connected to the craft. After years of classes and studio hopping, I finally invested in my own studio equipment in 2018, which came along with the start of Cloud 9 Clay.
How would you summarize your approach to your work and your materials?
Working with clay requires a lot of practice and patience. I love that the craft itself has so many facets, because there's always so much space to evolve. I want my work to evolve with me over the years. I love looking back at previous work to see how far things have already come. I try to approach my work with a light heart and not take things too seriously because there is always an element of surprise, and that's what makes it fun! 
What’s the hardest thing about working with your hands, and what’s the most gratifying?
I am so grateful to create with my hands every day, I wouldn't change it for the world! It's endlessly gratifying when people appreciate my work and find joy from it. Working with clay can be a very physical job, and sometimes you're just really tired, or your hands are already raw from throwing gritty clay all day yesterday, so it can be difficult when you realize that you're human and have limits. There really aren't any (good) shortcuts when it comes to the creation cycles of clay, so embracing the slow and steady aspect of the process is important; that's why handmade is so special!

Did you ever have an epic fail, and what did you learn from it?
I've definitely had a few! But most recently, I had a big batch of nerikomi plates all crack in half in my bisque firing. I learned to stop stacking my plates! But most of the time my failures are a product of impatience or just my clumsy nature (or my cats). 
What’s been inspiring you lately?
The prospect of traveling again some day. Watching my friends succeed. Going on walks and hikes. Music recommendations. Exploring new streets in my neighborhood with my dog. Cooking and intimate dinner hangouts. Shooting photos with film and collaborating with creative minds. Beautiful produce and plants. 

What’s a typical day like in your studio?
Depending on what I have going on, I might spend all day glazing, or throwing, or packaging orders, or photographing new work, but usually a mix of a bunch of those things.
What’s your studio like itself? And what are your favorite objects in the studio?
Well, my studio is also my apartment! My sunny work space sits at the front of the building, and my kiln lives in the basement. I live in the back rooms with my boyfriend, dog, and two cats, so my studio is pretty much my entire life! I could (and have) easily not leave the building all day, because pretty much everything I need is here. It can get a little claustrophobic at times, and definitely makes "work-life balance" sort of impossible, but I've always wanted a home studio so it really is a dream come true. Some of my favorite objects in the space are my pink fold-down dinner table from Jinxed, all of my plants, and all of my friends' art on the walls. I also love my vacuum, like a lot.

What’s your smoking ritual?
My ritual depends on how I'm feeling, but I like to see how smoking affects my creativity throughout the day. Sometimes smoking will help me see a process or problem differently, or just help me slow down and be more patient and present. Sometimes it helps me realize that what I really need is a nap, and sometimes it invigorates me and powers me through a long day of production.

Tell us what you love about the piece you’ve made for Tetra.
I love the colors that we chose and that we decided to play with texture on the ashtrays. I've also always wanted to make a pipe and ash tray set, so this was really exciting to see come into fruition. The pipe reminds me of the classic DIY apple pipe, which I love because that's how I smoked for the first time ever!