Aileen Lee speaks to Karen Cody, co-founder of MAKA Ceramics
I graduated from the Design and Crafts Council of Ireland’s Ceramics Skills and Design Course in Thomastown in 2014, where I had spent two years training as a production thrower. After graduating I began spongeware decorating in the Nicholas Mosse Pottery studio, and then moved to Ross-on-Wye in the UK where I set up my own pottery studio.
When I returned home to Ireland I began working as a production thrower and pottery studio manager in Dublin; it was here that I became confident in running all aspects of a working studio, gained teaching practice, and met Marz Lawler.
Marz and I developed a great working relationship, and a friendship founded on creative chats, sneaky gins, and weekend hikes. MAKA began as a little idea one morning in 2017 as we walked the Bray-to-Greystones cliff trail — we do our best brainstorming while we’re out walking! The first MAKA pieces, ceramic jewellery, were made that year; however it was the following year when we began creating tableware that the business really started to take off.
A typical working day starts off early, coffee in hand — and quite possibly some kind of pastry — walking the dogs through the fields.
I then prepare the clay before throwing pots to fill orders, while Marz decorates the leather-hard pots made a few days earlier — all while listening to ’80s music and crime podcasts, which we can’t get through the day without!
Depending on the weather, and drying time, the pots are then moved from the studio to completely dry out by the fire. Other days are dedicated to sanding and glazing pots; getting them ready for a glaze firing.
We like to keep our days in blocks of making/decorating and glazing to make the studio run more efficiently.
Each day I take photos for our social media — as a small business we recognise the importance of developing a strong online presence. We do this by sharing our story, showing how we work, and involving our followers in all aspects of running of a small craft enterprise.
Our favourite project so far has been establishing MAKA. Both Marz and I have learned a lot about setting up a business and all of the different hats you need to wear on a day-to-day basis.
We created our workspace, converting an old stick shed to a functioning pottery studio. Lately we’ve been excited about moving into a newly built, wooden cabin studio which overlooks fields of wildflowers and provides plenty of inspiration.
Our design style varies from monochrome leaf designs to pots with simple lines slipped (liquid clay with colour stains) in fresh colours. We want to create products that are not only visually pleasing but also tactile and functional for everyday use.
It may sound cheesy but the little joys in life inspire us. We recognise the importance of everyday design; how your favourite mug feels in your hand, and how it holds just the right amount of coffee to get you through the morning.
We only really keep current with colour trends — when it comes to style, we go with what we personally like and create complementary pieces for each collection.
I have a banding wheel (used to decorate pots) which was gifted to me when I was starting out. It’s one of our favourites, and most used pieces of equipment in the studio.
I have always had a lot of admiration for David and Margaret Frith of Brookhouse Pottery.
I love both their work and their lifestyle, working from a studio in the countryside with chickens roaming free.
We have always dreamed of working on a larger scale; creating some sculptural work based on botanics, as we both share a love of gardening and flowers.
Don’t play it too safe and don’t be afraid of colour!