Chiara Della Santina makes small batch, handmade ceramics centred on mindfulness and slow living. At her home studio in Capalbio, Tuscany, she creates unique cups, mugs and plates, decorative items including vases, planters and incense burners, as well as customised, one-of-a-kind pieces for her clients.
I first met Chiara in London, where we'd often walk back from university together. Ten years on, our individual paths have changed and evolved, and it has been a pleasure to watch her creative journey unfold.
This is the first interview for a new series titled A Creative Life, which will feature the work and voices of artists, writers, creative entrepreneurs and more.
What first drew you to the medium of pottery and ceramics, as well as the minimalistic aesthetic of your pieces?
Since I was a child I was always very creative and curious. I was naturally drawn to anything that pertained to the world of arts, such as drawing, dancing, playing music and any type of craft I may have been exposed to. My hometown was originally an Etruscan settlement, and as part of our primary school curriculum, we had a few pottery classes where we were taught the main ancient techniques that Etruscans used to make ceramic vessels. That experience enraptured me and the fantasy of taking pottery lessons stayed with me all my life, until I finally decided it was time to give it a try.
Most of my designs come from moments of introspection and mindful observation, and I like to think of them as entities that dwell in my inner space. A space that I can access only through the gentle exploration of my very own silence.
Your work is often inspired by concepts and philosophies that are important to you. Could you share some of these and how they've manifested in your pieces?
As I previously mentioned, my creative process is not so much the result of an intellectual effort. It is rather an emotional journey, an insightful exploration of those images, sensations and messages that already exist within me, beyond the noise and the humdrum of our everyday life. My job is to step aside, let go of any control and expectation and let these images manifest in the space of my conscience. Then, I might try and recreate those images directly on clay – which is actually what happens most of the time – or do some sketching and prototyping until I am happy with the final design. Many times, when I create directly on clay, my motions follow my emotions and I recognise what it is that I was aiming for only when I look at the finished piece.
If I were to identify one common thread among all of my works I would say that it is the search for harmony between opposites. I try to achieve this by mindfully balancing shapes, colours and textures, both within one single piece and an entire line of work. Throughout the years I’ve also realised that I am most inspired on the days around any new moon and full moon and this, in and of itself, is another manifestation of that.
When I create directly on clay, my motions follow my emotions and I recognise what it is that I was aiming for only when I look at the finished piece.
What keeps you motivated to create? Is there anything you do when your mind needs a break from work or when you need new inspiration?
So far, I’ve never really been in a place where I needed to intentionally look for motivation to create. Expressing myself creatively has always been a necessity for me. I instinctively and intuitively turn to creativity to express my emotions, even unintentionally. However, since being creative is also my job, I sometimes experience moments where I need to experience the freedom that one feels when creating just for the sake of it, just for myself, without worrying too much about how that particular piece is going to fit with the rest of my work and so on and so forth. On these occasions, I mostly listen to music (live music was a big part of my life before Covid), dance (this is a practice I recommend to anyone who feels that their mental and physical energy is stagnant and needs a good shake) and spend time exploring the world and taking photographs. Journaling is also another favourite practice to get perspective and break the circle of habit.
Tell us more about your recent TRACES collection. Are there more pieces in the pipeline or a new collection in the works?
TRACES is a recent collection that revolves around the concept of the passage of life (not necessarily of time) and of how each experience that we face during our lives, be it positive or negative, is going to leave a sign on us. Therefore, each mark that we collect along the way, physical, emotional and psychological, is a testament to the path that we have walked to get to where we are now, and should be seen as a distinguishing feature of who we are.
I believe that, as humans, it is important that we get to a place where we feel comfortable owning our story, and by elevating marks and indentation as distinguishing features in my creations, I hope to encourage people to do the same. I know that this collection is going to be present at least until the end of 2022 and that I am probably going to add a few more objects that better represent how this concept is evolving and maturing inside of me. But beyond this, I’ll have to live and see what happens.
You are currently rebranding your website. What drives the new story you've written for your business? What do you keep in mind when writing and sharing stories about your pieces?
The decision to rebrand originally came about from the necessity to change platforms (from Wordpress to Shopify) so that I could have an e-commerce presence that was aesthetically pleasant and easy to use. This also happened at a time when I felt that my digital identity needed revisiting in order to be more aligned with my message and unique offerings.
When writing about my pieces or my experience as a creative entrepreneur I always choose topics that I reckon could be interesting or helpful for my audience. I always read my texts as if I were in their shoes and I try to imagine what they would think and how they would feel reading that particular piece of content. Of course, I might also just be inspired to share something in the moment, which I do especially on social media, but I always make sure that overall I provide a good balance throughout the different types of content that I offer. It’s not always easy, but I try.
Each mark that we collect along the way, physical, emotional and psychological, is a testament to the path that we have walked to get to where we are now.
Who are your mentors, or people who helped you acquire your skills and start a business?
I think that each and every single person that I’ve encountered along the way has helped me, one way or another, to be on the path that I am on today. One person in particular has been pivotal especially in how I run my business and in helping me build more confidence as a woman entrepreneur, and that is Katherine Suarez from Nomad Atelier (you can find her on Instagram @nomad_atelier). I will always be grateful for her wisdom and invaluable advice!
You can view more of Chiara's work on Instagram.
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