Take 5, Lily Weeds from Lil Ceramics

1. After launching our pretty Ceramic Jewellery Dish we've had customers wanting to know a bit more about Lil Ceramics and your process. When did you first discover your love of ceramics and where/ how did you learn to do what you do?

I started going to pottery classes about 8 years ago at my local community art centre. I used to take my son along every week (about 6 months old at the time) and just try to get him to nap or play with toys while I potted away – it was the first arty thing I had done in years (almost 20 years since I went to art school) and I couldn’t get enough of it. The combination of creativity and practicality really suited me. Creating beautiful and functional objects for everyday use also requires a lot of problem solving and creative thinking which I enjoy.

As my kids got older and I had more time available I started investing in things like a kiln and pottery wheel so I could keep up with the growing demand and work from home instead of relying on the community art centre for firing etc. Once they were all at school I went full time and moved to a studio space in Grey Lynn which I shared with a bunch of other amazing creatives; Mahy Designs, Sly and Company Clothing, Amulet Jewellery and Uku Designs. Now I’m on the move again to a great big converted apple shed closer to home (Muriwai Beach) with heaps of space all for me.

I learn a lot from other potters who are usually so generous with their knowledge. You tube is a fount of information and lots and lots of trial and error.

2. We love to support local and work with artisans here in New Zealand. Has the pandemic affected the way you work, or materials you use at all?

There have been major disruptions to the shipping and production of the raw materials locally and internationally.

In ceramics there is a lot of work behind the scenes to find clays and glazes that will work together reliably and suit the purpose of what you are making. Once you get a successful combo (usually after lots of testing and altering glaze ingredients and retesting) then you know its going to work on that big order. It's heartbreaking to have to change the clay or glaze ingredients and redo all that testing because suddenly there is none of this clay or that glaze ingredient available. Many potters have recently had situations where a usually reliable clay body will suddenly start cracking on all your work because the clay manufacturer has had to change one of their ingredients and suddenly it doesn’t work the way you expected any more.

On the positive side those same shipping and production disruptions have forced NZ businesses to look locally for products that they might otherwise have bought from overseas so I'm seeing a lot of restaurants using local ceramicists for their plateware and cafes buying locally made cups which is fantastic.

3. You make a range of products from plates and bowls to tumblers and vases. What stage of your art do you enjoy most? Conceptualising? Moulding, colouring etc.

    I love working with the clay, I'm not really a drawer so when I'm conceptualising I tend to do it in 3D by making several versions of something before settling on the one I like best. I like to experiment a lot, to try new techniques and see what different materials can do. In ceramics there are always loads of different ways you can go about to achieve a certain look so trying all the different paths and finding which one gives you the results you want and works best for you can be time consuming but fun.

    Glazing is probably my least favourite part, especially when you’ve worked for a long time on a piece and it's successfully made it through the making, drying, first kiln firing stages in one piece, then you have to make decisions around glazing colours and application and fire it again.

    4. Because of the handmade nature of your pieces there is much charm and personality and no two are the same. Which is your favourite piece at the moment and why? (a picture please!)

    Im really enjoying working with found clay. I gathered a small amount of clay from Whananaki where I go camping every year. It had washed out of the bank onto the beach in a storm, so I brought a few clumps back to the studio and processed it- sieved out all the stones and debris and made some coffee/wine tumblers with it. You never know exactly how wild clays will turn out, and there are lots of interesting texture and colours from the minerals and sand from the area.

    Ive been playing with some clay from a friend’s driveway excavation in Muriwai recently but the results have not been as successful so far. The clay is brittle and porous so I'm adding some other materials to make it more functional – I cant wait to be able to drink a coffee from a cup made with clay from my own home. To me it feels really grounding, like a way to connect to the land, but in an easy everyday way.

    There is a local art exhibition every 2 years in Muriwai and I'm excited to make some pieces using clay and sand and other found materials from the area for this.

    5. A cup with a handle or a cup without? and what is your favourite beverage to have in one of your creations? (a recipe if something you brew yourself, or a recommendation of something you love to drink?)

    I have so many cups in all shapes and sizes, with and without handles and they are all perfect for a certain drink on a certain type of day. Always using a handmade cup adds that little bit of something special to your everyday rituals, it's like choosing your favourite child.

    At the moment I especially love using my Whananaki clay cups for coffee most mornings and I'm looking forward to having a sangria at the very beach the clay came from in them soon.

    This is the recipe for a Japanese style sangria that won us the Whananaki camp cocktail competition a few years ago…

    Lots of ice in a big jug, then put in equal parts sake, pear cider, zabrovka vodka (bison grass vodka), apple juice, a generous squeeze of lemon, a few cucumber slices and top it all up with soda water.

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