London-based ceramic designer-maker Sevak Zargarian graduated from the BA Ceramic Design course at Central Saint Martins, having discovered copper rods, porcelain paper clay and the transformative powers of the kiln on his foundation course. Working from a studio in his garden, his focus is on material exploration and the making process, resulting in the Unearthed Collection and his current range the Unearthed Interiors Collection. Design Geek editor Katie Treggiden caught with him to find out more…
I didn’t even know ceramics was a thing before I did my foundation. Yet here I am, years later, striving to make a living out of it – a whole new world opened up to me.
They come to me just as I’m about to fall asleep, and keep me awake for hours, running variations and possibilities through my mind, making me want to be in the studio making! It could be something I saw ages ago that sparked an idea only just coming to the surface, or an accident I came across in the studio – something that went wrong, with spectacular results.
It’s a progression from my Unearthed collection, where I was also creating a random pattern through process, but this time I’m focusing more on interior accessories and objects. Handmade by me in parian – a type of porcelain similar to marble once polished smooth – the objects have a translucency that works well to highlight the coloured intrusions.
It usually starts with an idea that comes out of the blue, or something I’ve seen or picked up previously. I’ll do a little test with clay and fire it amongst my regular work and see how it turns out, then I’ll start to tweak around with it and see how far I can stretch the idea. Alongside this I’ll be thinking about the forms that will best go with the idea. I’m a big fan of technical drawings, so I’ll spend hours drawing just to satisfy my craving, and to get to grips with the shape. Then I’ll turn the models in plaster, or throw them on the wheel to get a sense of the object three-dimensionally and the space around it. Then I can start making the forms in the material I’ve been experimenting with and see how well they work. Many variations later, I’ll have a final product that I think is ready for the world to see.
A good day is one where I wake up early and refreshed, and go straight into the studio to start the day making. I have some lunch and spend an hour or two ploughing through admin. In the afternoon I focus more on experimenting with new processes, and keeping my studio in working order; preparing batches of clay and coloured grog.
On a bad day, I wake up late, and open the kiln to see every single piece broken for no obvious reason. I try and do some casting and find out I’ve run out of prepared clay. I still keep going and sand some pieces and maybe a few will break, but hey, you can’t win them all.
I’d have to say my diamond pad. I use it to polish my work once it’s been fired for the final time. It gives each piece a smooth, sleek marble-like finish to the touch. It’s amazing how many ceramic pieces there are out there that could do with a quick once-over with the diamond pad! It transforms the feeling of the raw clay to another level.
I like to visit the V&A in London and have a wander through their ceramics galleries. There is a vast amount of work in there, and every time I visit there is something new that catches my eye. Other than that, just a break from work – going out to see the city, or having a walk in the park and catching up with friends – gives me the reset I need to go back to work feeling refreshed.
Good, well thought-out products have a clearly defined function and aesthetic, whether it is a teapot that pours well or a beautiful object that enriches your home. The key is almost always in the details; as clichéd as that may sound – it’s all about the little surprises you come across as you use an object: the way it feels to pick up, to use, the way it can stand alone or work in groups.
Being shortlisted for the Homes & Gardens Young Designer Award last year, having only graduated less than two years before. It was great to have that affirmation that I’m on the right track with what I’m doing.
Just keep going. Things do go wrong with ceramics, and sometimes you need to just take a step back and breathe, really look at the object, see what you can do with the unexpected result. When it works, it’s worth all the tears.
You can find out more about Sevak Zargarian and buy his products at The Maker Place and meet him in person at the London Design Fair, where he’ll be exhibiting 22–25th September 2016. Register for your tickets here.
Having established confessions of a design geek in 2010, Katie Treggiden has gone on to a career in design journalism, writing for titles such as The Guardian, The Telegraph, Elle Decoration, Stylist, Design Milk and Ideal Home. In 2014, she launched Fiera, an independent magazine dedicated to discovering new talent at the world’s design fairs. Her second book, Makers of East London, was published in 2015.
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