Tell us about yourself.
I am Clair Catillaz. I live in Greenpoint, Brooklyn in a janky apartment with my dear friends. We brew beer and have a pretty solid fire escape garden. I founded Clam Lab about two years ago after years of making and teaching pottery. It’s a work in progress — a luxurious evolution.
Apart from creating, what do you do?
My siblings love to tease me for being a Brooklyn stereotype, but I think they’re just jealous of my awesome lifestyle. I’m into cooking and researching the scientific secrets behind glaze and food and plants and beer. I just joined a mushroom club and I’m pretty psyched about that. Generally I’m trying to learn, breathe, and become a good witch.
What would be the title of your memoir?
Something witty and dashing, but I hope that by the time I am distinguished enough to write a memoir, I will be humble enough to leave it unpublished.
Where does your inspiration come from?
The best thing is a relaxed dinner party in the summer — there’s nothing like a room full of music and laughter and a stack of beautiful, mismatched plates ready for dessert. There is a subtle joy that is visible in the patina of use. I try to make things that are inviting, satisfying and alive.
What does handmade mean to you?
Human spirit and (hopefully) grace.
Who has been most influential in your craft?
My mother and I took our first pottery class together when I was twelve, and I’ve had my hands in clay ever since. I’m deeply grateful for her support, even through my famously impossible teenage years. I’m still trying to convince her that she doesn’t have to keep every pot I’ve ever made.
When did you know you were an artist/maker?
I am fortunate enough to have parents who believed I was an artist well before they had any solid proof. Like both of them, I enjoy having busy hands.
How would you describe your creative process?
When distracted, I doodle shapes in the margins of my to-do lists. I conceptualize the forms I like, and trust my hands to make them real. Muscle memory is really an amazing thing, and clay is an incredible medium. Anyone who works in clay knows about letting go. So much can go wrong. Pots break, kilns misfire — it’s foolish to be attached to a fixed outcome. The only survival strategy is to be in love with the process. I make products, but my real work is the practice.
If you could peek inside the studio of any artist, designer or craftsman (dead or alive), who would it be?
It’s a tie between my mid-century ceramics heroes, Russel Wright and Edith Heath. And by “peek,” I hope you mean snoop.
What handmade possession do you most cherish?
Hard to pick just one, but I recently discovered a medicine pouch that my mom made for me during her Sacagawea phase of the early ’90s. I remember helping her pick out the deerskin and beads. It’s perfectly fringed and sized for a bottle of magic potion.
How do you get out of your creative ruts?
I usually have more ideas than time, but I’ve found that the best way to keep the juices flowing is to keep moving. Production can be boring and repetitive or it can be incredibly cathartic. Some days it’s nice to simply pump up the jams and bang out 50 cups. I also have an amazing studio space that I share with about 15 other ceramicists; it’s really important to have a community. It’s hard to be an island.
Where would you like to be in ten years?
Living the dream on a bit of land with beautiful soil, with regular excuse for celebration.