Meet The Maker: KANA London

London-based ceramicist Ana Kerin explores her love for sculpture and all its textural possibilities through KANA, distinctive stoneware that embodies both function and form.

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While ceramics seem to be having ‘a moment’ for design lovers, they have been a somewhat paradoxical artform for Ana Kerin, whose conceptual fine art has come full circle and now encompasses earthy, simplistic form in her ceramics. ‘I studied fine art at degree and post-graduate level in my native Slovenia, and there was a lot of theory, art history and traditional drawing involved,’ recalls Ana. ‘It was an amazing experience, and I had such thorough training, but it was quite intense,’ she admits. Her background in sculpture was founded here, where the art students were encouraged to use all kinds of materials in their sculpture work, ‘I always came back to clay!’ she exclaims. While Ana was led to a ‘high-end’ art career after studying, producing works such as large-scale installations and conceptual pieces, it was the smaller elements that had the mark of human touch that interested her: ‘while I was working on large fine art projects, I enjoyed the non-pretentious side of making functional ceramics in the studio,' explains Ana, ‘so when I moved away from Slovenia it gave me license to pursue more functional forms- which was of course more financially sustainable.’ 

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Ana’s studio KANA now sells hand-crafted dinnerware, gifts and vessels, each with a modern aesthetic and unique use of beautiful, mottled glazes and finishes. Ana has collaborated with Petersham Nurseries, illustrator Alexa Coe and London restaurants to produce smoothly-hewn pieces that have a hand-finished edge. Small, glossy pinch pots have gilded curse words gently brushed on, while traditional handmade tea cups have blue pigment applied with a brush to mimic the effect of Ana's etchings or watercolours. With the rough edges and personal traces of the artist left on each piece, Ana’s work wasn’t immediately received when she launched in 2012. ‘A lot of my pieces toe the line between “fine” art and function,’ Ana says. ‘What happens when you take a conceptual piece away from a gallery or exhibition space and put it in your kitchen? Does it de-art it?!’ However, she doesn’t detract from the work of fellow ceramicists. ‘I admire greatly the skills of potters who throw pots,’ Ana continues. ‘A great potter is trying to achieve perfection and produce thousands of identical cups that bear no trace of the human touch- which makes the commercial potter much more anonymous.’ 

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In the past six years Ana’s work evolved to the point where she found need of her own studio, and in May 2017 moved into the space she now occupies in Hackney, East London. ‘I’ve moved spaces five times in London- studios are so expensive and rare- and I often outgrew previous premises,’ she says. ‘Having my own space is so important to me, and I’ve found it interesting how my spaces affect my work.’ Often producing a range or collection for a shop or restaurant, Ana found it necessary to have a large enough space to accommodate large volumes of ceramics and has found the freedom of  ‘a room of one’s own’ to be a huge influence on her. ‘There’s no point being frustrated by someone else’s timetable or habits, or being confused by the lack of light or windows- here I have so much natural light and I find my colour palette is often dictated by my mood,’ she adds. KANA’s collections are not led by trends or fashions, instead Ana can work on a collection for as long as two years before producing a cohesive range, which seeps into smaller releases such as vessels or a certain colourway before a big collection is unveiled. 

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In the meantime, Ana finds time to share her expertise through teaching at her Kana Clay Parlour. Small groups can attend one-off workshops or even a series of more intimate classes to learn about how Ana uses her medium as expression and for function. ‘I’ve been teaching art since as early as high school, and I still really enjoy it as every group is different,’ says Ana. ‘Sometimes it can be the combination of the people in the group that’s interesting, and sometimes it’s more like a therapy session!’ While the idea is to learn Ana’s technique of clay building and create a finished piece, learning new muscle memory and skills, it can be quite therapeutic for some students. ‘I really get a lot out of these sessions,’ continues Ana. ‘I often need to introduce the idea that we need to turn off our expectations, let go of ego and allow yourself to be new at something- ultimately most people are surprised by the quality of what they’ve made and it’s just great having that time to yourself to be creative.’ 

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Being conscious and respectful of one’s time is something Ana is very enthusiastic about, especially as an independent business owner. ‘Although I have some sort of routine, planning my days can be tricky- I feel like I’ve spent my entire adult life trying to find a routine!’ laughs Ana. ‘It’s important that I find some quiet, alone time each day- either with a coffee at home or here in the studio,’ she continues. ‘After that it might be five meetings in a row with no time to eat or pee, or it might be a three-hour work lunch with a friend and colleague- either way I have to tell myself that it’s OK to spend time in this way rather than at the studio until 2am every night.’ Routine, it seems, is as flexible as Ana’s work, and her incredibly philosophical approach to art and life. Whether she’s teaching, making or creating new connections, Ana’s business continues to grow with love and passion. 

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Quick-Fire Questions

Describe your work in three words... 

Tactile, personal, memories (stimulates or creates)

What are your making rituals? 

Silence and late nights 

Tea or Coffee? 

Coffee

Mountains or sea? 

Sea!

Night owl or early bird? 

Night owl

I wish someone had told me... 

How much easier life gets once you are past 30! 

Visit Ana's website at www.kanalondon.com

All photography by Georgia Gold