TEXTURED CERAMICS WITH TANIA WHALEN

 

Today at LES, we delve into the world of ceramics with Tania Whalen, whose deep passion for raw clay, movement, and texture shows in her work. Based in Brooklyn, Whalen finds inspiration in nature, music, architecture and art, where all of her pieces reflect her admiration for everyday objects. Through the ancient practice of hand-building vessels using the pinch and coil method, Whalen preserves her ceramic medium while infusing it with modern techniques, resulting in truly unique pieces that celebrate the beauty of imperfection.  

 

1. We are so excited to get the “behind the scenes” of your studio. What was your main source of inspiration for designing your studio?

My studio basically took elements of studio’s I love - which are all quite different - and those I have saved on my pinterest page. I like industrial and organic and simple and big windows/good light etc. and my work space basically has those elements so I just added a few pieces that would work for my practice.

2. What does a day in your studio look like?

A typical day at the studio is unwrapping builds that are drying and do any prep if they are heading to the kiln soon. Checking my calendar for builds, calls, delivery dates, emails, photographing new forms, packing etc. Then I decide what I am going to work on orders/commissions or if I need some ‘play’ time. I tend to do this every few weeks or so when I am busy, just to really release and get creative or work on some ideas that I have been simmering and I have been meaning to get to but have not had the time. I find it really reduces my stress and it is my happy place working on new ideas.

 

Landscape

Tania Whalen

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Swirl Moon

Tania Whalen

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3. Do you have any studio must haves? A podcast? Playlist? Snacks?

Definitely my playlists on Spotify and Soundcloud and a good speaker with bass & volume. I also love to discover new playlists and add new tracks to my faves. I’m pretty simple when it comes to snacks - love to have something salty and sweet to nibble on - usually chocolate and a pack of crisps.

 

4. Many artists and creators consider the place where they create as important as the final artwork. Do you find that your studio is a haven that inspires you to produce your best work? Why or why not?

I love my studio and I have been producing some of my best work since moving in. My studio is still pretty new. I moved in last May and it hasn’t been set up yet to how I would ultimately like it to be. I have minimal equipment and I work simply as a hand builder who employs the pinch and coil method. I have little waste which goes in a bucket and gets used as slip for surfaces. I have a work table, a few banding wheels and my tools, and my major purchase last year was a kiln. I want to say that having my own studio makes me work freely without restraint and I get to explore ideas and I love to come in and get creative in my space. But I feel like being in other spaces can be creative and inspirational in different ways, be it the surroundings, the people etc.

 

Flutter

Tania Whalen

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Wrapped

Tania Whalen

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5. How would you describe your artistic style in a few words?

I would describe my artistic style as being raw, quiet and elegant, with traditional elements and a unique modern vibe. I lived in Japan for 18 years but it wasn’t until I moved to the states that I began a practice - I think I am heavily influenced by my time there but not in an obvious way.

6. What is one thing you wish you could tell your younger self?

There isn’t much I would tell my younger self...I wasn’t career driven, I was free-spirited, wanted to travel the world and experience all the cultures, whilst having a good time - my focus really was on living! I had my daughter young and was a single parent so things were never easy but we had fun, and although I could have done lots of things differently, I wouldn’t be where I am today, with the family I have, or have had those experiences if I had taken a different path…



 

Three Peaks

Tania Whalen

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Botoru

Tania Whalen

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7. What is your approach to cleaning your studio and making sure your space is maintained while also being home to your creative outlet?

I like to give my space a good mop down, floor and surfaces, and a bit of polish when needed. I also like to have everything handy but not cluttered. I like to have a feeling of zen and calm, so I can think and visualize in my surroundings, both in my studio and at home.

8. You are referred to as a “ceramicist” who hand-builds your vessels using the pinch and coil method- could you delve deeper into this and tell us how you evolved to the artist you are today?

Sure, I took my first few courses about 16 years ago and worked on wheel throwing mainly, and some slab hand-building and practiced for a couple of years. It wasn’t until 8yrs (2016?) ago when Gasworks NYC, a community studio opened right near my apartment that I started my practice again. I initially wanted to throw but found the wheel just didn’t agree with my back, so I started handbuilding small porcelain pieces and drawing on them with either bisque pencils or creating designs with underglazes. It was during the pandemic after taking home bags of different coloured stoneware that I really started building vessels and my first moon jars in early 2020! And it just went from there - shapes and forms and handles and textures - and by the end of that year I got my first couple of orders. Today, I just love the freedom that ‘pinch and coil’ allows - I can practically think of any shape or form that I am interested in and actually build it! It still amazes me that I can!



Kapok Vessel

Tania Whalen

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Shrug

Tania Whalen

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9. Your art has such a signature and quality look to it. Besides ceramics, what other materials are you curious about bringing into your studio?

I love textiles, and painting so maybe a combo of those! I have actually started on a couple of pieces!

10. Your most recent launch with LES had such a distinct quality and look to it- What inspired you to create the raw and unique vessels?

The forms are part of my ongoing ‘vessels in texture’ series. They were initially inspired by craggy mountains and landscapes, especially those found in Utah’s amazing national parks - I love the arches and the weathering

 

SHOP TANIA WHELAN