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Hustles + Hobbies: Pottery With Firdaws Clotaire

by in Culture & Lifestyle on 27th September, 2021

At Amaliah, we’ve started a series talking to women who are championing the art of hobbies. We’ve spoken to Esra Alhamal about the art of Islamic illumination, Azeezat Adeola about mindfulness in knitting and how to get started and knitting for social issues, Neda about pole fitness, body confidence and online trolls, Chaimaa Creates about baking and cake design, Katie Haseeb about illustrating and fine arts, Brooke Benoit about jewellery design, Nur Hannah Wan about documentary-making and painting, and Zainab Alema about her journey to becoming a professional rugby player and encouraging more Muslim women to get involved in sports.

This time, we’re speaking with Firdaws Clotaire.

If you would like to interview a Muslim woman about her hobby, get in touch on contribute@amaliah.com


What do you do and how long have you been doing it for?

I am a Ceramic artist who is passionate about sustainability, usability and beauty in the pots I make. As a child, I did a bit of hand-building (making objects by hand) and loved it. I’ve always wanted to explore pottery further so after university I became an apprentice at my local ceramics studio. I learnt how to throw (use the wheel) and it has been just under 3 years now with a lot of start and stop naturally due to covid.

How did you get into this hobby?

It started off as a hobby but then became so much more. I documented my journey through Instagram as a way to see my progress and once I reached a certain learning stage, I decided to take things the next level. I started thinking about creating pots for everyone. The name Luna’s Pottery is a tribute to my maternal great grandmother who was a Kabyle village healer.  I wanted to inspire, heal and bring joy to others.

Each vessel is carefully designed with love and care and is a celebration to all women.

What is your favourite thing about doing pottery?

Not only is touching clay very therapeutic and a great release of stress, Clay has no/very little constraints. I love that you can make just about anything. Being with it, touching it and creating something out of nothing is a beautiful thing.

What is the most challenging thing about doing pottery?

Making sure nothing goes wrong from A-Z – Most people think that pottery is a quick process but what most don’t see is its long repetitive process that cannot be fastened. When you create something, you need to allow its time to dry so that it’s leather hard before you can trim the pot otherwise it gets distorted. Once you’ve trimmed and added features to your pot, you need to patiently wait for the clay to completely dry before it can go into the kiln (an oven) and if you try and speed up the process, you risk cracks before or after the firing. You then add colour to your pot and it goes back into the kiln for another firing. Altogether it would take a couple of weeks (depending on the weather) to have your creation/s ready.

How do you stay motivated?

Seeing myself getting better and better at making! I may not always see the improvements I make as they may be small but when looking back months later, it definitely shows more. Another thing is not playing it safe – pushing myself out of my comfort zone and achieving something that is beautiful. An idea I have in mind may not always come out well but sometimes you gain an even better one!  Mishaps turn into blessings. Other times, I just need to give myself a small break to give me that boost I need to create more and renew my intentions and love for pottery.

It does help when people show their love and appreciation and buy a piece. Purchasing helps me to continue to learn as well as goes towards equipment and resources.

What is the pottery you created/worked on that you are most proud of, and why?

I am most proud of my sculpture pieces that you can find at Goldfinger factory. I made then from my back garden during the first lockdown. They are the first hand-built pieces I have made since I was a child. I really poured my heart, soul and feelings into the pieces. It truly represents what I was feeling at the time which was a mixture of bewilderment, uncertainty, curiosity, love and spirituality.

I am also proud of the bespoke Algiers and Karukera signature cups. They have become one of the most popular sets. In addition, the bukhoor burner line is something I am proud of. It took a lot of trial and error as I had to ensure its shape, design and functionality.

Between your hobby/business and work, family, personal errands etc. how do you organise your time and make sure that you’re staying on top of everything?

I usually set myself a goal for the month in everything I want to achieve. In terms of pottery, at the moment, I make a large batch one month and focus on selling and social media the other. Pottery is very time consuming especially if you want to get better and so does require a lot of late evenings. I’m a UX designer who is constantly learning the art. Most of my days are spent working on UX during the day and Ceramics at night. I usually work until about 10pm when I do go into the studio which is about 3/4 times per week. I like to get most of my work done at the beginning of the week so that I can focus on leisurely activities such as fitness and spending time with family and friends. I usually cycle to and from the studio so not only does it get me a workout, it saves a lot of time! Social media is another thing that I have to fit into my week which can take a bit of time especially when I like to focus the art.

Who are your biggest inspirations/who are the people making waves in this field?

There are some remarkable female potters that walked this earth. Among them are Toshiko Takaezu, Ladi Kwali, Maria Martinez and Magdalene Odundo. They all have their own unique style but all act as an inspiration for me. I love their boldness in their shapes and the textures they try to create – whether it is more earthy or modern. I respect these women and the contributions they have brought to modern day pottery. Today we have electric wheels and access to countless tools making the life of a potter easier than it used to be.

What would be your advice for someone that wants to go into pottery

For people who really want to immerse themselves in the culture and lifestyle, I would say find your local studio and ask them if they need assistance or are looking for an apprentice. That’s how I got started, in a small studio in Clapham. Be ready to do the heavy lifting, carrying clay bats (what you put clay on to dry), loading/unloading kilns, mixing and putting up clay, pugging (compressing clay), preparing clay and glazes. The glaze world is a whole other world. It takes a lot of practise and time. If you have less time and want to start off slowly, I’d recommend finding your nearest evening class and giving it a go!

Anything else you would like to add?

Whatever you’re into or have been meaning to try for a long time, you won’t know if that thing is meant for you unless you give it a go!

Selina Bakkar

Selina Bakkar

I'm a simply striving to be better and improve in different areas of my life through more self awareness, experiences and learning more about the deen. You'll find me talking about community, connection, planting & growing, seeking the truth in an age of propaganda and misinformation. This year I want to document more to do with food heritage and history so watch this space or reach out. Have a listen to the Amaliah Voices podcast where I talk passionately about Islam, nature, motherhooding and back home. Link in bio peeps. To join the Amaliah Writer Community email me at selina@amaliah.com IG: SelinaBakkar