This month I met with North Docks resident, ceramicist and founder of Aura Living Aurélie Vanbergen. We met in our North Docks hire space and chatted about Aurélies’ journey into ceramics, a bit about the process behind it and some exciting things coming up that you can get involved in. This was the first time Aurélie had spoken about her ceramics journey, so I felt privileged to hear all about it, and by the end of our chat, I felt really inspired too! Read on to find out more and get inspired.
Hi Aurélie, can you tell us about your craft and what you make?
My main practice is ceramics, which I started about three years ago as a hobby. I took an induction class at Altar Pottery and went to evening classes, started practising, and completely fell in love with it.
During lockdown, I couldn’t go to the studio but I have always been super crafty and I was craving to work with my hands in my spare time. I came across this technique of using a plaster based material that you can pour into moulds. I purchased a kit from Katie Gillies who is a a well-known surface designer and I watched lots of her videos too and picked it up from there. From there, I started researching more about the material, which is an eco-resin, and started to develop my own designs. I am now able to go back to the pottery studio to practice ceramics, but am now also working with eco-resins.
I’m now a full-time member of the pottery studio which means I can go whenever to keep practicing and develop designs. Attila who runs the space is great and so giving with his knowledge in pottery and I’ve learnt so much from him. But the goal is to have my own space at Make where I can do the same, a bigger space for my wheel and my new kiln.
I started selling this time last year. It started by making things in my kitchen and posting it online and people said they would like to buy them. So I started selling on Instagram and it was picking up so I opened up the Etsy store.
What is the process when making ceramics?
It’s quite a long process. First, you would throw or hand build the piece, then ideally you would let it dry for a few days until it gets leather hard. You turn the piece and then trim and tidy the bottom because when you’re throwing the piece on the wheel you concentrate on the top and the bottom is left quite thick so you have the freedom to do what you want with it, whether that’s creating a nice flat base or creating a foot ring. Then you have to let it dry completely before you put it in the kiln, if it’s not quite dry as it enters the kiln because the kilns are so hot it will crack. That whole process takes at least a week. The time depends on whether the kiln is already on because if it is, the room gets hot so the pieces will dry faster.
It can take a piece 1-2 weeks to be ready for the kiln. Then the bisque firing takes at least 2 days for the temperature of the kiln to rise and fall. Then you glaze the piece, which has to dry for at least 2 days then back in the kiln for 2-3 days.
So it can easily take a few weeks for a whole piece to be completed. The kiln consumes a lot of energy so you have to make sure you have a few pieces to go in the kiln and not just one.
On the contrary, the eco-resin is so quick, within 3 to 4 hours you can have a finished piece. They’re very different materials with different finishes and purposes. Echo resin is plaster like you would use on a wall, but instead of mixing it with water which makes it brittle, you mix it with an acrylic polymer which is almost like PVA, making it hard. The combination of the two materials creates an exothermic reaction, which is what makes it dry quickly.
What did you do before ceramics?
From trade, I’m an interior designer. I studied interior design and worked in architectural practices and interior design studios for many years. It was last December that I decided to leave that job and pursue ceramics full time. Last year was hard too because working from home was difficult and not inspiring to be on the computer on your own all day. Covid made me think that you don’t know what’s coming so you might as well give things a go. So I thought I’d try this out because I was enjoying it and I just needed to do something I was enjoying. In December I said I would give myself 6 months and see how things are going with the brand and it’s coming up to that now. It’s going well and I’m really busy. I’ve got a great response online and on the Etsy shop.
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You have recently just rebranded, how did that go?
Yes, I was formerly AV Homeware and now I’m Aura Living. The response has been really good. Recently a lot more of my orders are coming from the UK now.
A lot of people (myself included) are buying locally now. Lots of people recently have turned their hobbies into a business.
They have, in a way, the lockdowns have provided us an opportunity to spend more time on our crafts. I have seen other crafters online recently getting annoyed because there are so many people doing clay jewellery, or terrazzo or macramé or whatever, and they almost resent it. But I believe that there is enough space for everyone, nothing is ever going to be the same. It’s all about trying things that you love.
What has been one of your favourite projects you’ve worked on?
My favourite project has been putting my Terrazzo Coasters Workshop kits together and having to think differently. It’s not about designing, it’s about sharing the knowledge and practice with other people and setting up classes. Showing people the possibility of another material and something they could easily do at home. Ceramics is great because you can do air-dried ceramics at home, but it’s more limited. With the eco resin, you don’t need an oven or any specific material so it’s so easy to do.
I think it so important for people to craft and do something with their hands and try new things out. I’m super passionate about that. Hopefully, when I have a bigger workshop and can have several wheels I’ll be able to do pottery workshops. That’s the goal, to be creating but sharing that knowledge too.
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What would your advice be for anyone who wants to work for themselves or take the leap into their craft full time?
We see it as a risk to quit your job and do something you love, it is a risk and it is scary. But I found that it feels scarier than it is. It’s doing the jump that feels scary but once you’ve jumped, you’re enjoying the experience. It’s the anticipation of not knowing.
There may be months when you might not be earning as much money as you used to. But there are other months where you will be doing so well. It’s about focussing on the day to day wellbeing and how amazing you feel doing something you love, rather than working a 9-5 in something you don’t love as much. There’s something so precious about doing your own thing. But if you feel you can make the jump and you see an opportunity and maybe have some savings I think you just have to do it. If it doesn’t work out, you can always find another job. It’s definitely worth it.
Also, speak with people who may already have a business, speak with an accountant, business advisors. It helps to make sure you’re doing the things you need to do like taxes and business set up. A lot of people have the answers, you just have to reach out, and that will take the stress away.
What have you got coming up?
I’m working on making kits so that people can do terrazzo at home. I’m going to be doing a class at Make too on Saturday 4th October, we will be making a set of terrazzo coaster . I am a little nervous but excited! It’s just a level one class at the moment but it would be good to do more advanced level classes in the future. People who would have attended the coasters session could then make a large tray during the level two class for example.
But my next big goal is setting myself up in a bigger workshop, doing ceramics on a bigger scale.
Have you learnt any new skills recently?
I’m always trying new things and ordering kits on Etsy. I did the macramé class here with Tassel and Twine last year, then I ordered more kits online. I’ve got embroidery and weaving kits. You get really inspired trying these new skills, and it can even inspire my ceramics.
What’s it like having a studio at Make and being part of the community?
I have met so many people and for me, that’s been so enjoyable. To meet other creatives, people who are on a similar life path to you, it’s so exciting. Knowing that other people feel the same as you when you have an overwhelming or low month, it’s comforting. Or to be able to celebrate your successful months together.
Originally we were working from our living room, so to be able to come to our space here and make a mess is great. I also use the wood workshop to sand my pieces as I’ve got more space in there. I create my own molds, but I create my models in wood so I use the workshop for that.
Where can people find your products and ceramics?
INTERESTED IN JOINING Aurélie in THE MAKE COMMUNITY?
We’d love to have you! Find out more about our studios HERE or drop us a line at HELLO@MAKECIC.ORG.
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