Meet The Maker : Dawn Clayden

Meet The Maker : Dawn Clayden

Dawn Clayden is known for her intricate and masterful porcelain works detailed with cascading flowers, sculptured characters & precious metals. We have just received a fresh refill of Dawn's latest work and thought it was the perfect time to get to know a little more about her & her work. 


What do you make/art practice?

I make porcelain vases, tableware and sculptures. The majority of my work is vases, they are functional art pieces, I often say they are made to be displayed - not put in the cupboard. I am a designer, maker and ceramicist... I'm not a potter (haha) 


What does a normal day look like for you?

I like to start my day early by getting up at 5:30am (though I don't always like the alarm going off)  I workout, have breakfast with the family and get my daughter ready for school - I often have dinner cooked and household washing / cleaning done by 7:30am, it's nice not having to think about what to cook or clean at the end of the day. I head to the studio after my daughter catches the school bus. There is always something to do in the studio, packing orders, catching up on admin, making or glazing. I have two kilns running most of the time and I'm looking forward to getting a 3rd kiln very soon. My work in the studio can be different depending what stage I'm at during the process and my mood, some pieces require a lot of time and once started they have to be finished. My daughter will come into the studio after school, I have a nice area set up for her. Most weeknights I head back to work after my daughter has gone to bed it can be a juggling act but i'm grateful to be working full-time doing what I love. Working from home and being self-employed comes with the benefit of being flexible with time and being able to have the odd day off - I do like spending time garden 



How did it all begin - Where did the passion for ceramics come from?

I have been working with clay for my entire working and studying career.  Morris & James pottery in Matakana has been a huge part of my life, I was lucky to get a job working in the Hand Decorating department after leaving high school part way through year 13.  At the time it was the most amazing job being paid to be creative.  It's where I learnt so many skills working alongside other creatives, early on it’s where I made the connection between the care and attention that goes into a handmade product and how special they can be in a world full of mass produced commodities.  After working for a few years I decided to study for a Bachelor of Design.  I continued to work part-time at M&J throughout all of my study.  I originally started study thinking interior design was my pathway, it was through a core elective class in ceramics that I discovered slip casting, mould making and sculpture.  In the last year of my bachelor degree I had a small internship at Studio Ceramics, I worked alongside one of the original mould makers from Crown Lynn, he was hugely talented.  I was like a sponge learning so much that they don't teach anymore, I loved all the stories of his time at Crown Lynn.  My undergraduate study continued to a Master of Design by Project, within the first year of study Eric and I had brought our first house, got married (my surname changed from McCarthy to Clayden) and we had a baby.  Somehow I managed to write a thesis with a one year old, graduating in 2014.


In 2015 we brought our current property undertaking a huge renovation project on a lifestyle block in rural north Auckland, my work was very much put on hold for about 3 years.


It has been a long road to get here, there have been many, many times when I’ve thought about quitting and getting a "normal job". But I'm happiest with a lump of porcelain to transform 



Where do you find inspiration as an Artist come from? 

I guess a lot of inspiration comes from my love of interior design, I love seeing transformations and what can be achieved with some creativity and a bit of hard work. Our home is a huge inspiration to me, though it's been 100 time more difficult than we first thought - our renovation project has been like a 5 year long episode of "The Block" and we are still not finished!! Being able to choose which white paint is best, bold floral Marimekko and Pip Studio wallpapers to patterned tiles has been pure joy.  I've very slowly been collecting art from my favorite NZ artists from Cam Munroe, Anna Leyland and Aroha Lewin. I also love lighting and have a problem being totally obsessed with David Trubridge!! I'm truly surrounded with things I love, art, pattern and flowers - this is reflected in my art 


What do you love most about working & living in Aotearoa?

I've been lucky enough to have done a bit of travel, I remember getting very home sick while in England, most likely it was from not being near the sea or water. 


I love New Zealand and where we live, our property backs onto native bush and our neighbours horse farm, also being near to Mangawhai and Te Arai / east coast beaches - we are so lucky



How has your artwork changed over time?

The quality of my work has definitely changed, my pieces are getting more and more intricate with attention to detail. I love details!! My firing processes have changed, once a piece is made and dried they go through 3 kiln firings that overall takes one week for them to be completed.


I’m very aware of my energy that goes into each and every piece - I can’t work if I’m not in the right headspace or just not feeling it, often this is when pieces don’t turn out but in saying that it’s not very often. Good vibes only, love, care and attention go into everything I make and can only hope that good energy is radiated from them 


How has the social media and the internet affected your artwork?

Instagram has been amazing to connect with so many people around the world, and here in NZ.  I don't post regularly enough but it has been a great platform to share my work. I've also made some incredible new friends 


What is your studio/creative space like?

My studio is based at home, its a late 1800's schoolhouse that was relocated here in the 1970's long before we got here.  There have been many additions added to it over the years. When we brought the property it was in need of some work and a major clean.  It has a fireplace that is so lovely on those cold winter mornings.  We have been told that the school house came from the local country school where my now daughter attends. We lived in the studio while renovating our main house, it still has the original wooden floors and windows - it truly is a wonderful space for me to work, it’s 7 steps to my studio from our backdoor. 



What drew you to working with The Poi Room?

Melanie-Jane!!! Her enthusiasm for my work has by far been the most amazing and encouraging. Clayton has been a great mentor with business advice, it’s coming up to 9 years being with The Poi Room. 


I would not be here as an artist today without their support and encouragement, I’m proud of what they have achieved and to be a small part of it, I’m beyond grateful.