Slow handmade ceramics by Laura
In the middle of a sunny studio stands Laura’s pottery wheel, When Life Is Slow. The light shines through the beautiful moon-shaped windows. The clogs are still on the door and by the pottery wheel is a cute retro red-colored stool. Over a hot cup of tea from Laura’s handmade mugs, we talk about how When Life Is Slow all started, how she travels the world in her van, which by the way can only go 80 km/h, and about her finding peace in the clay.
On the pottery wheel Laura has a chunk of clay. With her hands, she slowly guides the clay upward. Her thumbs push out the edges to create a beautiful bowl. Being aware of where the clay goes and not going too fast is what I learn from Laura. This also applies to claying without a wheel. This involves different techniques for making a small pot or a large vase. Claying by hand is less delicate and less perfectionist. You feel closer to the earth, you can take your own pace and completely surrender to the pace of the clay.
“It’s handmade, you can still see my fingerprints.”
When Laura finished her studies in fine arts at art school, she felt that after years of performing it was time to take it slow. Go out into nature and discover places. Through an advertisement she ended up in Australia. In the kitchen of a restaurant, located in a farmhouse far from civilization. With nothing to do, surrounded by only nature, Laura spent her free evenings in the farm’s pottery studio. Evenings spent learning all the techniques and eventually being able to give workshops herself.
After years of traveling and working at different potteries both in Australia and New Zealand, it was quite a step for Laura to return to the Netherlands. Once back home everything fell into place. It started in her parents’ garage, where she discovered items belonging to her grandmother, who used to sculpt. Boxes full of dried glaze and tools. With the knowledge Laura learned during her travels, she decided to set up a ceramics workshop of her own.
When covid came and because you were only allowed to meet outside, the idea of “Clay In The Woods” was born. Claying in the woods with a small group of people. Sitting on a rug surrounded by the trees, fresh air and the chirping of the birds. Being able to connect with people and distract from hectic life, becoming one with the clay and your hands. It’s mostly about taking people outside, into nature and connecting with yourself. Watching the blackberry bushes and learning when chestnuts are fully grown. Walking in silence through the forest, absorbing what you smell, see and hear, perceiving your senses.
“Working more with our hands and getting out of our heads.”
Clay taught her to take things slower, in this fast-paced and busy society. You can’t force or change anything or it will go wrong, so you have to learn to deal with the pace of the clay and the 4 elements. It is a long process that requires a lot of time and patience. The earth slowly dries by air, this takes 1 to 2 weeks until all the moisture is drawn out of the clay. The fire in the oven bakes the clay at 800 degrees so that the shape is fixed, which takes 24 hours. Then it is ready to glaze and bake again. Higher temperature causes the particles in the glaze to fuse together to form a color, again this takes a full day. You can’t speed up the process, but you can give it a hand by putting water on the ground if the climate is dry so the clay doesn’t dry out, and if the climate is humid, you can hang dehumidifiers to help the clay dry faster.
“With clay, you surrender yourself to time and moments.”
Clay also teaches you to connect with yourself, to learn what you can actually do and didn’t know. Making a vase or a plate to eat from, something that is in our ancient instinct but does not always have the peace to come out. Using your hands and feeling what you are doing, turning off your head for a moment and just being in the moment.
April 2022, Studio When Life Is Slow