Ceramics: Working the earth, an incomparable air bubble - Companies

Ceramics: Working the earth, an incomparable air bubble – Companies

It was thought to have fallen into disuse. However, in recent years, ceramics have been making a strong comeback, seducing a public in search of a soothing hobby that sometimes turns into a passion. And more, in business.

February 2022, the French platform Wecandoo which, since 2017, has been orchestrating meetings between artisans and the general public in France, launched its first workshops in Brussels. Among the seventy courses offered, 10% are dedicated to pottery and ceramics… and are taken by storm. This is the case of those of Clara Dwels. The young woman, originally from Liège, worked in the world of advertising for seven years, before deciding, a year ago, to quit everything to start a new life by opening, with the florist Elodie Mouton, Boucan, a boutique -Saint-Gilloise concept combining florist, art gallery and ceramic workshop. “I started to take an interest in ceramics when I was working in London. There, the prices asked were exorbitant and the sessions were spread over several months. However, I just wanted to put my hands in the a few hours a week, to learn about the discipline; which I finally did when I returned to Belgium five years ago. In Brussels, I found much more accessible courses and workshops – at Studio Kiwi for example. I was hooked right away and everything happened gradually: I started doing it after work. I started to receive orders; I told myself that what I was doing shouldn’t have been that bad (laughs). So I went part-time. When covid hit, I moved into a temporary studio and got into it. That’s where I met Elodie, who told me about her concept store project and that was the trigger: I left my job, where I was running non-stop and I started ec her as independent. For a year now, I have been working full time in the shop where I devote a large part of my days to ceramics by creating, but also by delivering courses in the form of aperitif workshops.”

February 2022, the French platform Wecandoo which, since 2017, has been orchestrating meetings between artisans and the general public in France, launched its first workshops in Brussels. Among the seventy courses offered, 10% are dedicated to pottery and ceramics… and are taken by storm. This is the case of those of Clara Dwels. The young woman, originally from Liège, worked in the world of advertising for seven years, before deciding, a year ago, to quit everything to start a new life by opening, with the florist Elodie Mouton, Boucan, a boutique -Saint-Gilloise concept combining florist, art gallery and ceramic workshop. “I started to take an interest in ceramics when I was working in London. There, the prices asked were exorbitant and the sessions were spread over several months. However, I just wanted to put my hands in the a few hours a week, to learn about the discipline; which I finally did when I returned to Belgium five years ago. In Brussels, I found much more accessible courses and workshops – at Studio Kiwi for example. I was hooked right away and everything happened gradually: I started doing it after work. I started to receive orders; I told myself that what I was doing shouldn’t have been that bad (laughs). So I went part-time. When covid hit, I moved into a temporary studio and got into it. That’s where I met Elodie, who told me about her concept store project and that was the trigger: I left my job, where I was running non-stop and I started ec her as independent. For a year now, I have been working full time in the shop where I devote a large part of my days to ceramics by creating, but also by delivering courses in the form of aperitif workshops.” Three evenings a week, Clara therefore receives small groups that she initiates to the basics of her discipline (120 euros per person for five hours of lessons, at the rate of two 2h30 workshops). “These are mostly women – I must have received four men in all since the launch lessons – of all ages, who come mainly out of curiosity. Generally, the first half hour passes in a hell of a hubbub, but as soon as the hands touch the ground, silence falls; the participants are ultra-concentrated…” Because ceramics challenge, titillate… and above all, soothe! Could this be the secret of its success? How to explain such a passion for ceramics? For Kim Verbeke, ex- biologist, passionate about this discipline for more than 15 years, and installed full-time as a ceramist for more than four years in Walloon Brabant, the reasons are multiple. First, the need for a certain return to the sources: “The ceramics is a very old craft. There is a deep and rooted connection with this tradition, which resonates with people”. also as a counterweight to the frenzy of our time: “It is a response to the period we are going through, dominated by stress, anxieties, burn-out… People need a soothing bubble and the find in particular by turning to manual activities which calm them, anchor them. By working with their hands, reconnecting with the earth – a simple, basic element – they reconnect with something primary: the soil, nature, but also their body, therefore themselves”. Finally, ceramics generate a feeling of pride… “We see it in the workshops and courses: what speaks fluently to people is utilitarian pottery, remarks Kim Verbeke. It’s revealing: plate, pot, mug, vase… people like to create objects that they will use. It’s very rewarding for them!” Another strong point of ceramics: it is accessible to everyone! Nathalie Stillemans, founder of Clay by N, can testify to this. At 40, this mother who worked full time in events took up ceramics during confinement and, seduced, got involved in it to the point of completely reviewing the organization of her life, reducing her working time to three-fifths to start as a ceramist and create her own brand. Her productions are now available in a few shops in Brussels and Walloon Brabant. “It’s a discipline you quickly get hooked on, she explains. In addition, when you start, it’s not very expensive: you can already find courses for around thirty euros. And if you want to start at home afterwards, a loaf of clay costs around 8 euros and you can already conceive a lot of things with that. What you really need to invest in fact is time!” For Clara Dwels, “there are as many ways of approaching ceramics as there are personalities; this is also what makes it accessible. It is a discipline where the forms can be imperfect, irregular…” But obviously, the costs increase when you decide to go further… “When you start, you will deposit your creations in a workshop, which will cook in an oven provided for this purpose, continues Clara Dwels. Because no, you can’t cook them at home: the cooking takes several days and is around 1,000 ° C!” Kim Verbeke confirms: “As long as it remains a hobby, it is quite economical. On the other hand, when you want to go further, it becomes expensive. We start by buying a lathe, we can find a good one for around 1,000, 1,500 euros, sometimes less on occasion. But when you’re really bitten, you stall quickly if you don’t have your own oven. Because we have the feeling of not mastering everything from A to Z. And there, it climbs! A good oven quickly costs 5,000 or 6,000 euros, not including the cost of installation, three-phase, and electricity.” Nathalie Stillemans completes: “Costs related to electricity and cooking quickly rise. You also need the ad hoc space to install the oven, but also the worktop, the storage space…” Kim Verbeke: “When you buy an oven, you clearly pass a stage, you are no longer in the simple hobby; we want to create, whether to offer, to welcome other people during workshops, to give lessons and, of course, to sell!” Like our experts, more and more of them are embarking on the ceramics in a professional way. Does this mean that tomorrow the market will be filled with passionate ceramists? “It’s a subject that we sometimes talk about between artisans, recognizes Kim Verbeke. But just because more and more people work the clay doesn’t mean they’re all going to become potters (smiles). The danger is thinking that it’s easy, that all you have to do is buy a lathe and an oven. It is an accessible discipline, of course, but in the long term, it requires reflection, time, energy… Especially since you have to know how to take breaks, avoid going into a intensive mode of production which would curb all creativity. When you want to move from passion to passion, you have to have solid shoulders and ask yourself the right questions, be well surrounded and well anchored. When you become independent, everything is called into question, the balance is constantly threatened… It is enough for a cooking to be missed to waste a lot of time… and money! And concretely, you need an order book that is filling up. Personally, I’m lucky that mine still is, but I haven’t yet reached my comfort zone.” Clara Dwels adds: “For a while, I was held back by the fear of insecurity. financial. I even took training to help me overcome my fears. As part of the Boucan boutique that we opened, a coach also helped us draw up the business plan.” Nathalie Stillemans is aware of these challenges: “I am delighted to be able to develop my activity as a part-time ceramist, the feedbacks that I receive are very gratifying. Especially since I did not expect such enthusiasm. I dream of devoting myself to it full time in a few years, but currently, it is out of the question to let everything go. Nevertheless, ceramics brings me a lot on a personal level. I learned a lot about myself, I’m more composed than in the past…” Kim Verbeke concludes: “It’s not a job with which you get rich, but you earn so many things that are not monetary . It brings you such intellectual richness, inner life and humanity. That has no price! I earn little, but I get up every morning with the joy and joy of going to the workshop!”.

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