Our Artisans: ceramicist Mariane Chan

Our Houses celebrate the meticulous work of artisans, emerging and established. This month, we introduce the creators behind some of our most beloved and iconic design pieces — first up, ceramicist Mariane Chan.

Words by Ted Stansfield   Portrait by Ricky Lo   Sunday 29 March, 2020   Short read

A woman in a sailor's hat laughing.

Portrait of Mariane Chan by Ricky Lo; Mariane Chan ceramics

A paint brush painting a small bowl.

HONG KONG — After working in the fashion industry for 10 years, Chan swapped styling for ceramics. Three years on, she’s gained a growing fanbase for her gentle, fun designs. 

Tell us about your transition from fashion to ceramics…
I started by going to some ceramic weekend workshops and loved it. So, I decided to quit my job and do it full time. I just wanted to do something different, something that was ‘my own’. With fashion, you always need to work to some kind of guideline – and with clients who are sometimes not so creative. But with ceramics, I can have complete control over what I do.

How does your fashion background help your craft?
I learnt that things can be playful and functional at the same time. You just need to go for it. To me, it’s the same with ceramics. Of course, you have to learn the basics first, like throwing, glazing, decorating and all the science behind it, but you can have fun and make something extraordinary. 

What else informs or inspires what you do? 
Paintings, installations, sculptures and photography all inspire me. When I get the chance, I will go to any art museum or exhibition. 
A ceramic bowl next to a plant in a ceramic vase.
Three bowls on a grey background.
Name your favourite thing about your job… 
I can get dirty and wear whatever I want, without people criticising me.

What’s the greatest lesson you’ve learnt since making the transition?
That it’s OK to fail, because ceramics is a craft that takes a lifetime to master. There have been a lot of ‘trial and error’ moments during my journey and I often have to throw away pieces that I’m not satisfied with.

How do you feel when you’re making your pieces?
It’s kind of like meditation. It’s really therapeutic, because your mind has to be calm when you’re handling clay, especially during throwing, otherwise it’ll go out of shape.

Images courtesy of Mariane Chan

Mariane Chan is a member of Soho House Hong Kong and has produced some decorative ceramics that are displayed around the House. Instagram: @mceramics_co