Dina Nur Satti is a Brooklyn-based ceramic artist and creator behind Nur Ceramics. Originally from Sudan and Somalia, Dina was raised in France and Kenya and has called NYC home for 16 years. She holds a bachelor’s degree in International & Intercultural Studies with a focus on the cultures of Africa and the Middle East. Her pursuit of ceramics was born out of her studies in African art and pre-colonial African societies, and an interest in learning how ritual objects and spatial design elevate experiences.
Dina often travels throughout Africa from Morocco to Ethiopia to meet with communities upholding ancient methods of craft, and to research the use of objects in ceremonial traditions. Dina connected to clay as a medium not only because of a passion for design and ceramics. Ceramics is a vessel, a container through which she explores ideas of personal purpose and growth, as well as our collective transitions, cultural storytelling, and communal rituals.
For Dina, the concept of creating space and surroundings with intention and purpose has long been a part of her life, and she wanted to ensure that the pieces she creates not only carry cultural significance, but that they also make people feel good and function within the context of a home.
WHAT INSPIRED THE NUR CERAMICS JOURNEY?
The inception of Nur Ceramics came about somewhat suddenly, about seven years into my career in development at NYC-based nonprofit The Robin Hood Foundation. After spending the entirety of my twenties working there and being part of a social impact-focused community, I started to realize that there was something I was missing in my life. I never had a vehicle that was my own to express ideas that I had on a daily basis, and to share a bigger vision with the world. So I was calling in that thing that would be really special for me. And I knew that there were so many different mediums of art that I felt connected to.
I woke up one morning with ceramics on my mind and after weeks of it coming up again and again, I enrolled in an intro course at Supermud Pottery in the Upper West Side and was hooked right away.
YOUR CREATIONS ARE TIGHTLY WOVEN INTO CULTURE. WHAT DO YOU HOPE TO CONVEY BY SHARING YOUR ART WITH THE WORLD?
As a self-proclaimed cultural anthropology geek, I really enjoy learning about the intersection of culture and art. I think in Western culture, we tend to extract art from our day-to-day experience and not see it as an integral and defining part of our culture. What I think we could learn from traditional cultures is that language, art, oral history and literature, music, adornment, and architecture are all interwoven and come together to create an almost transcendental experience by engaging all of the senses. To truly understand each medium we need to experience it within this wider context.
Some of the most popular Instagram posts that I’ve had lately have been of things that kind of challenge the Western mind. I recently posted a vintage picture of a ceramic artist in the Congo from the 70s or 80s. Seeing a Congolese man in a fine arts institute in the Congo, making not Western pottery but contemporary African masks, kind of created a glitch in people’s systems. Challenging perceptions is really important for me.
WHERE DO YOU FIND YOUR INSPIRATION FOR YOUR PIECES?
The desert has been an endless source of inspiration for me. Desert cultures have some of the most stunning color palettes and patterns in my opinion. I find my inspiration in traditional jewelry, rugs, and ceramics, as well as shapes and colors in nature.
WE LOVE HOW RITUALS SHAPE YOUR DESIGNS AS WELL, TELL US ABOUT THAT.
People always have these stories of being a kid and trying your mom’s makeup on and stuff like that. For me, that experience was watching the women in my life walk with poise and grace as they went through their morning routines or prepared for a family gathering: taking ceramic incense burners around the house, putting oils on, putting incense on their bodies, lighting candles.
These routines seemed, to me, very feminine in a beautiful way. And I realized there was a lot of clay involved — a lot of vessels made of clay. For me, ceramics capture a feeling of femininity that’s really powerful.
WHAT DO YOU LOVE MOST ABOUT LIVING IN NEW YORK?
I love New York because it’s a place where you can belong to many different groups and in my experience opportunities come around faster here than in other cities because everyone is a master networker. I moved here 13 years ago and have many different communities I socialize in. I would say the community that feels most like family is made up of artists, makers, thinkers, musicians, and event producers. Events and gatherings are definitely central to the way we come together because it’s the space where we all get to merge our talents to create something bigger. It’s been amazing seeing all my friends find their artistic calling and after 10 years or more of dedicated work find the success they deserve.