The joy of playing with mud: bringing healing and connection through ceramics

Clae is an innovative ceramics concept thought up by artistic sister-duo Tatyanna Meharry and Natasha English. Through Clae, budding creatives can try their hand at pottery and other arts with classes, kitsets, and beautiful tools and accessories. Tatyanna is currently at the helm of Clae, sharing her love of clay as a medium, the power of making as a healing balm, and the joy of a beautiful new studio space.


 

 
What do you make?
I make pottery kitsets and bespoke pottery tools so that you can experience the magic of pottery in your own home.

How did you get into your craft?
I have been teaching pottery for over fifteen years now and in all that time I am amazed at how much joy working with clay brings to people. I grew up in a very creative household and it was natural to turn to any crafty medium to bring a bit of quiet space into everyday life. Pottery in particular became such a balm to people who endured the trauma of the Christchurch earthquakes. Sharing and caring at that time has snow balled to a full time activity of encouraging people to play with mud.
 
Do you have formal training or qualifications in your craft?
I have a MFA which really helps me to shape ways of sharing creative information with others.
 
Your favourite materials, tools and processes?
My favourite tools are definitely those that have to do with shaping pottery. I have a set of beautiful hand carved wooden tools that I love using along with some special stones that have just the right shape collected from local beaches. I love being able to incorporate these types of specialty and found tools into the kitsets.


 

 

Is there a philosophy behind your work?
The overriding philosophy behind what I make is to encourage a way of looking at creativity with a core understanding of connection to the earth beneath our feet. That items we use in everyday rituals like a cup for coffee in the morning or picking herbs from a potted plant for our dinner are treasures to be cherished and not incidental to the way that we live. This way maybe we will use less and respect the resources that our objects are made from more.

What inspires you?
I am inspired by the spectacular way in which the landscape has been created over millennia and how you can experience this by making an item in clay. The earth, collected and shaped while it is wet and malleable, the way in which it dries to become dusty and warm, and then how in the heat of the kiln it is transformed into a permanent rock-like materials that are able to collect water and sustenance. It really is such a magical process that I always refer to it as the alchemy of clay!


 

 


 
What has been a highlight of your maker journey so far?
I think that the small things are the everyday highlights for me in my creative journey, especially when you share a skill with others and spark a new creative light inside of someone new.


Your favourite feedback from a customer?
Probably my favourite feedback from a customer is always ‘OMG… I totally didn’t think I could do this, but it looks amazing!’
 
Describe your workspace: I am super privileged to be working in a huge vintage building that I share with other makers in my field. I teach here, make my own pottery, create new tools and process/package local materials to put together for other people to experience. The light in our space is amazing with high vaulted ceilings, exposed beams and sky lights. It have fabulous old concrete floors perfect for getting a bit muddy without minding!
 
Five words that describe your mind: Busy, creative, experimental, insightful, caring.


 

 

 
What’s your favourite childhood book and why?
My favourite childhood book is Finn Family Moomin by Tove Jansson… I still read it now because of the fabulous creative creatures that feature in it and the way in which they interact and socialise with each other. Each creature has its own quirks and merits which are treasured by all. Maybe this is the utopia that I dream of?
 
What are you reading now?
I am currently doing a stint of re reading Agathe Christie novels because I love problem solving and if I leave them a few years in between I forget the details and rediscover the twists and turns anew each time!

What are you currently listening to? Trinity Roots: Home, Land and Sea.
 
A favourite quote:
“Feel the fear and do it anyway!” …don’t know who said this but I seem to always be doing this in one way or the other.


 

 
Tell us about your pets:
I have a very old lady cat called Bessie who was an earthquake rescue cat so she is a bit batty… like all of us! In her old age she has learned how to sit on my knee and chat to me. Before this she was all claws and a bit huffy. She isn’t really interested in what I do but when I have containers of clay lying around drying she does like to sit on it, as if she is nesting an egg… what can I say, she is very strange!
 
If you were a crafty superhero, what would your name and superpower be?
“Mud Girl” – able to cover most surfaces and things in clay while you aren’t looking!

What would your advice be for those starting out in a crafty business?
My best piece of advice for those who are just starting out is to value your own skills, make honestly, design and sell a bread and butter range and save the special stuff to explore yourself so that your creativity can still be your hobby too… and share with others to help keep you sane.


 


 
Why do you think it’s important to buy handmade and/or locally made goods?
It is so important to buy handmade and local, so that the value in making and materials doesn’t become hidden by the multiple transactions of commerce that so often happen when it comes from off-shore or large companies. In this day and age, we need to experience authenticity in order to stay connected with the multiple facets of our lives. The stories that come directly from the maker are invaluable to this process.

What was the last handmade item you bought and what attracted you to it?
One of the last really beautiful handmade purchases that I made was for handmade paper that had been dyed indigo… I am plotting what to do with it currently. Paper making is an amazing process that I have played with before and I love the potential a single page of delicious paper holds in it.
 
What’s in store for the rest of 2022?
As I have spent the past year moving and fitting into our new studio space I am looking forward to consolidating some of the items that I make and finishing some special local art projects that I have been working on over the past couple of years.

 

See more from Clae here »

 

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