At the end of the summer I started working on a series of conversations with a selected selection of modern ceramicists and today I am so happy to share my latest digital chat with Kira Ni, a very enthusiastic potter that shares with us her secrets and discoveries ..Her relationship with clay and porcelain … Enjoy the reading..
Very inspiring… and colourful.
POTTERING AROUND. In conversation with … Kira Ni.
1 . How did you start your pottery journey?
My clay journey began in a community ceramics class, back in January 2014 in London, UK. I remember my first encounter with stoneware clay – it was hand-building and wheel throwing in tandem. I loved it so much that I would sprint to the class after finishing my day job.
2. Handbuilding or on the wheel? Or both? And why?
Currently hand-building since I can express my ideas better with a free form and not be restricted to my tiny tabletop Shimpo wheel.
3. Your favourite type of material?
Stoneware for being forgiving and strong. Porcelain for being a moody drama queen and so very stubborn.
4. Functional ceramic or sculpture? Or both and why?
Both, always both. Functional ceramic teaches you proportions and sculptural pieces allow your imagination to fly. Functional piece is an anchor in your hand, sculptural is a visual one, so by doing both you can find a good balance.
5. Do you prefer making in ‘solitaire’ in your studio or being part of a group?
I’ve tried both and working by myself works better for me. Pros of working alone: you make the rules, it’s only your mess and dust, kiln is all yours, you choose which music or podcasts, you can focus better with no distractions. Cons: no human contact for days, no new knowledge coming in from fellow potters. Pros of working in a communal space: possibly cheaper, no need to invest in your own kiln, fantastic variety of glazes, always more experienced potters around who are usually happy to help. Cons: you might not access your preferred desk or wheel, lots of different dust from other makers including plaster, too loud, could be annoying music, not as clean, no kiln access for a longer time.
6. Working with clay is therapeutic; what is your relationship with clay?
It was therapeutic at the beginning, now we have developed a good working relationship. We are friends and work colleagues.
7. Do you have a routine, a typical day, a structure, when you are ‘playing with clay’?
Unfortunately, I don’t have time to play with clay anymore. It’s all very structured work environment. I find it’s best to have set working hours, they are indeed longer than office hours I used to have. For example, Monday is always bisque firing, slip-casting and making new batch of slip. Wednesday is always very long 10-12 hours with barely any break; it’s sanding pieces that have been bisque fired on Monday, applying wax resist, mixing glaze and glazing them.
8. What are you in the process of making at the moment?
Currently slip-casting porcelain. In May I’m planning to make a new collection of sculptures, I have ideas, so do a lot of sketching. Why May, because it’s already getting warmer outside but not too warm, so porcelain doesn’t get too dry and I can work on a piece the whole day without wrapping it.
9. What has been your highlight over the last year?
Finally being able to work with porcelain slip. It took me a long time to figure out this material. I was trying to make my own moulds too, it took a while and about 80kg of plaster, but in the end I gave up and ordered from a plaster master.
10. And what’s coming next? What is it that you have been working on?
You probably will see a lot of slip-casting; I have lots of ideas on colours and shapes. There will be a few collaborations with fellow makers and artists.
11. Any tips for a new entry/student in the pottery world?
Find a good teacher and technician. Not necessary a college or University, since we all start our pottery journeys at different time period in our lives. But if it’s a workshop, do good research and see what they offer, how they teach, how big are the groups etc. Don’t limit yourself to only wheel throwing or hand-building, do both. Hand-building will teach you how to attach handles to mugs, how to make those handles, how to decorate pot etc.. When throwing on the wheel you will learn thickness and parameters of your clay how much you can stretch it, its strength. Practice a lot and don’t rush, you have to be sure in the quality of your work.
12. One (or as many as you like) potter/artist that inspires you?
There are lots of wonderful makers from the past and current. It will be hard to choose a few, but definitely Miro Made This for her design, Maryam Riazi for her handbuilding, Katia Carletti for her glazes, Juliet Macleod for her perfectionism, Lesley Doe for her slipcasting, Guy Marshall-Brown for his sculptures.
13. A museum/gallery that should be a must-visit. Or a book to inspire you?
V&A London, and / or any museum in your area, even shops like Yonobi Studio where you can find work of potters from around the world. Not a book but rather a magazine: Country Living Modern Rustic.
Photo Credits: Kira Ni
Discover more on her website.