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MY JOURNEY TO CLAY

Flora Fabris - Studio potter - Handmade OOAK wabi sabi ceramics

I come from a lineage of farmers, labourers and people close to the land. I've grown up in a small town, at the footsteps of the French occidental Pyrenees. Pristine and untouched nature was surrounding me everywhere I looked, and I was not even aware of its beauty... then. It's when I went on to study civil engineering in Paris that I realised what I was missing. Every time I would go back to my hometown, I would bring back a little bit of it with me. A plant from my mum's garden, a pebble from the river behind my family home, a piece of driftwood from the beautiful Atlantic beaches, or just a kilo of freshly milled flour from our local miller! I was slowly recreating around me this bubble of nature that I was missing so much. When moving to London, I moved my little bubble with me and started investigating the world of sourdough, starter, flour and gluten. Simultaneously, I started pottery, through workshops and classes in a communal studio. It gave me the connection I was missing, between the land, the soil, the grain and the hands.

INSPIRATION

My main source of inspiration comes from nature, the one I grew up around in Southwest of France, where the mountains meet the waters. My preference goes to simple patterns and shapes with an organic twist, natural colours, muted tones and tactile textures. I work mainly with stoneware clays, fired in an electric kiln, navigating through all building techniques to create my vessels. My only limitation is the size of my kiln. I love rustic clays with a strong personality and a story to tell: wild clays, gritty clays, black clays, iron-rich clays. Their rusticity is to me a reminder that pottery belongs to our human history. The weight of this legacy is maybe the reason why I feel drawn to functional pieces which can be used and reused around the house, often in various ways, as opposed to strictly decorative ones. I like to elevate rawness to a state of modern elegance in a functional vessel by incorporating foraged or waste materials in my makes: it can be dry grasses bundled in a brush to apply slip with the hakeme method, wood-ashes which I incorporate in my glazes or a wild clay, foraged down a river bed to apply as a brushed-on engobe. I am currently working on developping a glaze recipe with wasted eggshells and seashells, wood-ashes and wild clays, which can be fired in my electric kiln.

Gave d'Aspe a Gurmencon - Photo by OOAK Creation
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MARKS AND TRACES

I like to leave traces and marks on my work, as a testimony of our human condition. Hakeme - the technique of applying liquid clay or slip with a brush - takes a big part in my pottery practice. I make my own brushes out of recycled or foraged materials. This technique came to me naturally, almost as if I needed it to connect with my past as a painter. When I apply slip on my greenware pots, I aim for fluidity in the movement. It only takes a split second to leave a trace and there is generally no coming back. It's better to empty the mind from intent so that the movement can really be free. I see it as my daily meditation practice. Over the years, I’ve developed a strong connection to the Japanese concept of wabi-sabi. I am constantly learning to welcome acceptance, transience, and imperfection in my work: there is beauty to be admired in every flaw.

Tree in Greenwich Park - Photo by OOAK creation

ECO-HERENCE

Pottery is often pointed out as a process requiring a huge consumption of energy and producing masses of CO2. While this is true, I believe that, as potters, it is our duty to promote the concept of eco-herence, or a coherent sustainability through mindful practices and ecocaring working habits. In my practice for example, I make use of efficient kiln firing techniques: I use electricity to fire my kiln (which is the cleanest method of firing, in terms of CO2 and fine particles emissions, when compared to gaz or wood firing), I try to fire my kiln during off-peaks, I always pack my kiln as tight as I can and I have lowered my stoneware firing temperature to 1220C. I use wild clays as part of my decoration arsenal and I recycled ashes from wood burning in my glazes, in an effort to diminish my consumption of commercially dug minerals and chemical ingredients. Additionally, I try to reduce waste by reusing clay scraps and I also try to minimise water usage during production through a serie of water buckets where I wash my tools and my hands. Furthermore, since I started selling my pots, I have embraced eco-friendly recyclable packaging materials and tried to avoid plastic as a ceramic wrapping staple.

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Simple, rustic, and organic surfaces remind us that we are alive and that we all have a personal journey to accomplish: every crack, every print, every trace, every mark, every handling of the clay will give it a particular memory and will leave a permanent scar, once fired for the first time. After this, clay becomes vessel, and its proper journey begins.

I would like my one-of-a-kind vessels to be regarded as vehicles for kindness and tolerance, transmitted from my hands to yours. Just like the grain grown from the soil becomes an edible loaf through the hands of the baker, the clay becomes an object through the hands of the potter, to be either used or admired.

Flora Fabris

Flora Fabris - Studio potter - Handmade OOAK wabi sabi ceramics
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There is a crack in everything, that's how the light gets in.

Leonard Cohen - Anthem/1992

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