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we like it wild: diana fayt

by Grace Bonney

Ceramicist and sculptor Diana Fayt just officially became a rock star. This summer Fayt was featured on the cover of Ceramics Monthly (June, July, August edition), which as anyone in the world of ceramics knows, is basically like being on the cover of Rolling Stone. So we were thrilled to get to spend some session time with her in her San Francisco studio this month as she prepared a new batch of vases for the fantastic Heath Ceramics.

As florists we were always struck by how few flowers it took to make one of Fayt’s vases look fantastic. Little did we know that this was deliberate on the part of the designer; after spending several years working at companies that preferred making wide-mouth vases and bowls, vases that would quickly eat up a fresh flower budget, Fayt set out to create work that was both economically and aesthetically minded. Her uniquely styled vases are perfectly happy holding a handful of blooms or none at all:

“Some things I consider when making a new vase shape is how many flowers will fit in the vase. Most people buy one bunch of flowers, not three. I want people to be able put their blooms in my vases with ease and not have to fuss too much but also to enjoy the vase without flowers as well.”

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A gardener since childhood, Fayt spent her formative years fastidiously assembling bouquets from her backyard. “Gardens and nature are pretty much a part of my genetic coding,” says the artist, who starts many mornings in her own garden checking emails while watching the hummingbirds collect nectar from a huge passion flower vine that is about to swallow her back staircase. After hearing about Fayt’s childhood, it seems that her thumb was green from the start. “When I was growing up my mom built a greenhouse on the side-yard of our house and tilled up the lawn in our suburban backyard and turned it into a huge vegetable garden…I spent many a lazy after school hour popping fuchsia pods and picking the gardenias that grew on our front walkway.”


Fayt has alchemically combined her love of nature and gardening with her formal backgrounds in printmaking and ceramics, producing vessels that are both visual and tactile. Her Bay View studio is part old world workshop and part ceramic candy-store. Her distinctive etched vases, made from a process she developed herself, bare carefully hand-drawn flora inspired by the artist’s love of nature. When a piece is still leather hard, not completely hard but still able to take a line, Fayt begins her etching. Each vase is designed to work as a stand-alone sculpture and her 360˚ botanical reliefs add texture and depth to each surface. Lately she’s been experimenting with old nails and antique tools to achieve new shapes and textures. Her studio is filled with rusty tools, 19th century botanical books and richly colored vases of all sizes and shapes.

“There is a chaotic order to nature. So many different plants can live next to one another in so many different settings, whether urban or natural and always look beautiful. The rhythm and patterns of leaves, the ordered petals on a flower, tangles of vines and small plants growing out of cracks in the sidewalk intrigue me. I like to integrate that feeling of chaos and order in my work.”

We couldn’t resist borrowing a few of her beautiful vessels for a mini photo shoot to showcase how a few flowers enhance her vases’ sculptural appeal, and vice versa.

The “Fragile” vase was perfect for holding some of the more delicate (and short) flowers we had around the studio: open garden roses and airy poppies. We love the combination of the graphic red font and the tissue papery petals.

A tall chartreuse and ivory cylinder held some late summer bounty from our garden. Some large clusters of green tomatoes with lots of foliage fill most of the vase with a few nasturtiums and bittersweet branches for some autumn color.

Our friend dahlia takes center stage in one of Fayt’s signature canteen vases. This piece is perfect for creating a more horizontal style arrangement by tucking in the stems at an angle. This particular vase is also two in one- it has a beautiful rooster on the other side.

Tiny vases can be a challenge because the stems are often hard to keep in place. It is surprising how many flowers can fit into a wide mouthed cup that is just a few inches wide! We like to pack little vases with a few small bouquets, using rubber bands to hold them together.


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