At work with Klei
by Stephanie Hannington-Suen·
We teamed up with our friends at Klei to bring you a special and limited edition scented candle in a thrown ceramic vessel. We visited Skye Corewijn, ceramicist and founder of Klei in her East London studio to document the process and to talk to her about her inspirations, goals and how she balances home and work life.
Tell us a bit about yourself, your background and what led you to start Klei?
Like so many I had no idea what I wanted to do when I left school; I went to university and studied art history, literature and media in Cape Town. After my degree I was still pretty clueless but wanted to travel so I bought a one way ticket to London in 2010. I started making pottery in 2013, and what started as a hobby eventually and surprisingly became a full time thing. The process was all pretty organic; I have always been self employed; working on project based stuff, having to hustle to fill in the gaps. I used to work in the music industry, managed a food and craft market and then also worked front of house in restaurants. As I got consumed by making pottery I slowly started shifting my work life around it; so found work as a studio assistant, then started teaching classes all the while getting more and more commissions and making more and more pots.
My good friend and incredibly talented potter, Jessica Joslin actually approached me about Klei. I think she’d seen that a unit at Netil Market had come free and she just thought we should go for it. “Should we take it and start a ceramics shop?” I was game! We started in a much smaller unit and we were just selling our own work in the beginning to keep costs under control. Jess stepped back from Klei in April 2021 so it’s just been me since then. It has been a total labour of love; but I think since going online and having a bigger space Klei has had the room to grow and develop. I’ve also had the means to introduce work by other makers which has been good fun. I enjoy talking about different methods and techniques of the making process and people can approach clay so differently. I think I have a diverse offering now which is so exciting! I also get to work with dear friends and colleagues whose work I really admire which is pretty special.
Do you have any advice for anyone trying to start something of their own?
I would say if it’s your passion try and preserve the love and joy you get from doing it. I’m quite glad it happened so slowly and steadily for me - it was never an ugly or stressful thing so I can still safely say I absolutely love my job.
Is this your full time job?
Making is my full time job, Klei is a big part of it but I do spend most of my time at the wheel in my studio. Lucky to have an amazing team who you see in the store on weekends. Shout out to Nishat, Leanne, Michelle and Nellie!
The concept of clean lines and minimalism is at the forefront of your brand, what is it about it that inspires you?
I think I just got obsessed with throwing; and the forms you can create on the wheel. I love dramatic lines but also find so much beauty in the small and subtle details of different silhouettes and considered shapes. I also actually love mad colour and patterns; so although my own work doesn't exactly reflect that, it's fun to explore it via other people's work at Klei.
Have you got any exciting plans lined up for Klei?
I will have a few exhibitions lined up next year; there is one artist based in New York who might be bringing over a few pieces for me. She paints beautifully detailed porcelain. But keep an eye out for more news on that.
What has been your proudest moment for Klei and the biggest challenge you’ve faced so far?
I think being able to source work from and surround myself with some really brilliant makers. I feel very lucky to work with such great people.
What’s your favourite piece from your store?
November’s exhibition has brought in special plates exploring the classic piece as both function and art; so right now I’m obsessed with EF Davies character plates and plates with inlay blocks and stripes by Lydia Hardwick.
Talk us through a typical day at Klei?
When I’m at Klei it’s usually receiving work from makers, unpacking, photographing and adding items to the online shop. Rejigging the shop is always fun - I could spend hours just moving stuff around. Usually all of this happens on a day we’re not open. On the weekends it’s opening up, packing up and booking in online orders, helping customers, answering emails, restocking, cleaning and so on. I have a great team who make Klei possible - I get to be in the studio making pots and leave the shop in some very capable hands.
How do you find balance in your daily routine?
That’s a tough one. I think knowing when to stop and give yourself a moment. When you work for yourself it’s so easy to just keep chugging along until you actually just run out of steam. So I think it’s just listening to your body and mind, and feeling ok to give yourself a break. Also allowing time for things that make you feel good - I love to run - and I love slow mornings - so an extra half hour watching the leaves fall, drinking a cup of coffee is peaceful and nice. But yeah; always trying to get better at this.
What are your aspirations for the future of Klei?
I’d love to eventually have my studio and Klei in the same place - shop in the front, studio at the back. Finding something like this in London, i.e the right size, location and price is like trying to find a needle in a haystack. But a girl can dream!
What is your favourite homework scent and why?
Bai San - love the woody and smokiness of the scent and how gently it lingers. It’s also one of the scents available in the ceramic vessel I made in collaboration with homework.