The new ceramicist on the Clay Club block: Clay by Khoa

Koskela is thrilled to welcome a new ceramicist to the Clay Club: Clay by Khoa. Khoa is an independent ceramic artist based in Adelaide who is working on creating the ultimate work, life balance between her love for clay and her family. Her passion was ignited by an unassuming curiosity to create a pot that would sufficiently house her Bonsai and burst into a wildfire as soon as she took to the throw. Khoa is a brilliant example of how a small business can thrive with a loyal Instagram and market following.

However, given the current climate, it’s important to support these small businesses more than ever. It is for this reason that the Clay by Khoa release is particularly close to our hearts. After years of experimentation with various glazes and finishes, Clay by Khoa has masterfully designed ceramics with the intention for them to be loved and used every day. Amidst these challenging times, it is important to make time for a quiet moment enjoying your home brew, or dinner shared with all home dwellers. And what better way than using ceramics shaped with love. For a more detailed delve into Khoa, we did a little Q & A with her below.

1. What made you fall in love with the art of ceramics?

I have enjoyed practicing the art of Bonsai for almost 15 years and I always found it difficult to find a ceramic pot that was suitable for my plants so I wanted to learn how to make my own pots.

After I had my first child in 2009, I decided to give up full time work and when she turned 1, I wanted to learn ceramics so I enrolled in classes at the Adelaide Potters' Club in Unley, South Australia. The classes ran once a week and I took these classes for four years, and from there I gained a wealth of knowledge about working with clay while making lifelong friends.

 2. How long did it take for the skill to develop? 

My love of ceramics outgrew the casual classes being offered at the Adelaide Potters' Club so I decided to go back to University to study a degree in ceramics and ended up completing a degree in Visual Arts, Ceramics at the University of South Australia in 2018. My years at UniSA were truly some of the best years of my life. I think that being a mature aged student going back to study really gave me focus because I knew what I wanted out of the course and what I wanted when I graduated. I was fortunate enough to be around amazing technical and teaching staff who enabled me to really drive my course and take control of my degree essentially. I wanted to learn everything there was to learn about glazes and experimenting with the development of functional glazes because I knew from an early stage that I wanted to one day make items that could be used on a daily basis.

I graduated in 2018 and was selected to be a part of the Helpmann Academy's Graduate Exhibition and received the Rob Lyons Award ($3,000) which recognised artistic excellence and talent. It was such a huge privilege to have been selected for this exhibition and to win an award was an unexpected honour.

So I guess, you can say that I have been working with clay for over 10 years now.

3. When did you establish Clay by Khoa, and what do you envision for the brand?

I established Clay by Khoa in 2017 while I was undertaking my Visual Arts degree. I applied and was accepted to have a stall at Gathered SA, a locally curated design market that showcases Adelaide makers.

I was discussing a brand name to launch with some friends and my husband and came up with Clay by Khoa (pronounced Kwa).

My vision for my brand is that hopefully one day to become a brand that people recognise through my form and glaze. I would like to be known for the quality of my products and for their functionality as well as their aesthetic. I would like for people to use my products so that they become a part of their daily ritual.

 4. What’s the most rewarding part of your practice?

There are many rewarding aspects of my practice. In early 2018 I built a studio at the back of the house so that I could work from home but still be present for school drop off and pick ups. I have been able to achieve a work/life balance that suits our family while still maintaining my own identity as a working mother and develop my brand and client base.

I think that by going back to study after having my children was such a fantastic life lesson for both myself and my kids as they were able to see and experience what it is like to really strive for what you believe in, that you are never too old to learn and that you absolutely can make a success of yourself through hard work, determination and an amazing support network. I think that is one of the most rewarding aspects to have come out of my journey.

I have also gained such knowledge about myself, what I want out of life, how I like to work and what drives me. Having been a part of the Bowerbird Design Market for the last 3 years has also given me an opportunity to become a part of an amazing and supportive design community that we have in SA and I am truly proud to have met and made wonderful friends from this community.

I am always humbled by my customers and their beautiful comments about my work. I always look forward to meeting people who have bought my products and hear about how much they enjoy using them everyday, it really does make what I do extremely rewarding and I think also gives me reassurance and validation that all makers need and that is that I am doing something good.

5. What’s been the most surprising/challenging thing you’ve learned along the way?

One of the most challenging things that I have learnt is when to say 'No'. I think early on, as with everyone who is starting out I suppose, is that I said 'Yes' to everything that came my way. I have learnt to trust myself, know and recognise my self worth and the worth of my products. I think it can be very hard when you first start putting your work out into the real world and having negative feedback can really set you back as a maker. I remember being so nervous at my first public market and wondering how my products would be received. It turned out to be such a positive and informative experience that I haven't looked back.

Another challenging aspect was working out how to price my work. I think, as with all artists, it is extremely hard to put a price on your time and how much work actually goes into making something. But, through time and experience, I have been able to compromise with pricing and what I feel I will be happy with and what I feel the general public would be willing to pay for it.

One final surprising aspect is the scope of social media and how it can enable a small business owner and maker such as myself to have a platform to showcase my work to the world, that is one thing that has truly blown my away.

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