ETSY SPOTLIGHT: FreeFolding Ceramics

Friday, February 16, 2018
Contemporary handmade pottery by FreeFolding Ceramics on Etsy
Ceramic bowl ($76)

The name of the handmade ceramic store created by Michal Keren Gelman is, as seems, right on the spot; pieces of clay are modeled and folded in the most gorgeous way by the talented artist into everyday practical objects for the kitchen and the home. There are so many things to love about Michal's ceramics! They are not only perfect to decorate your shelves with, they are also made to last and endure the daily use and, as you will see in the images right below, they do feel like they are made of metal (I'm glad Michal points that out in her interview as it was one of the first things I noticed and liked when I first saw her store). Click after the jump to read Michal's interview and feel inspired by how a mother of 3 decided to start a successful pottery career out of nowhere in here late 30ies. Also, do not miss a discount code she is kindly giving the readers of this blog to shop at her store at the bottom of the post!

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your store.

My name is Michal Keren Gelman. I am a mother of 3 children and a dog, happily married to a Zen juggler. I live and create in a small warm community on the western Galilee on the north of Israel. My studio is just downstairs from my house. There is where the magic takes place, where the clay and I are taking a daily journey, discovering shapes, forms & texture. For the last 8 years, I design and make ceramicware by folded clay sheets. 

Three years ago, I opened my Etsy shop, naming it FreeFolding Ceramic Studio. I chose this name because I wanted it to be as a reminder, a lighthouse to the maker in me – preserving and longing for the feel of a playground space, a childlike movement, free and brave and full of pure joy.

Contemporary handmade pottery by FreeFolding Ceramics on Etsy
Ceramic espresso cups ($45 for a set of 2)
Contemporary handmade pottery by FreeFolding Ceramics on Etsy
Espresso mug ($27)

How/when did you realize that your love for creating can be something more than a hobby?

I think it was a very prosaic moment, 12 years ago. I was in the final stages of being a fulltime mother, for 6 years in a row (twins + one) and having a weekly course of pottery for two years, so in love with clay, wanting to mess around with it 24x7. 

I didn't have any profession or a job that was waiting for me. My passionate creative years as a student at the art academy on the jewelry department, and after that at the theatre design seemed far away from me, at that time. It felt like I had nothing to look forward to, but at the same time, it meant I had every possibility open before me.

And right there, in this huge grocery store with loud Arab music playing in the background, between the tomatoes and the cucumbers, it hit me – this is what I want to do when I grow up. And I was 38 at the time. I had nothing but a great passion for creating in clay. Not long after, we started to renovate the garage down our house, turning it into a "room of my own".

Contemporary handmade pottery by FreeFolding Ceramics on Etsy
Planter pot ($62)

What is it that makes your products special?

I think that the thing that makes them special is the fact that they have a sense of delicacy and strength at the same time. They preserve the clay softness and movement. The special texture technique I developed sometimes gives them a tricky look of metal like.

Though delicate and so fine looking, the pots are amazingly practical and can be used with any kitchen facility, being an oven, microwave, and dishwasher proof.

What was the first thing you sold on your store? 

The first item that got sold at my shop was a set of espresso cups. It was purchased by a man from Germany, not long after the shop was on the air, and the KaChing sound was so surprising and tender to my ears. This sound still fills me up with joy and gratitude. It is a strong reminder for me, that another person connected to these ceramic vessels I create and found them beautiful and worthy to bring them into their life.

Contemporary handmade pottery by FreeFolding Ceramics on Etsy
Ceramic mug ($38)
Contemporary handmade pottery by FreeFolding Ceramics on Etsy
Ceramic bowl ($69)
What influences your work?

I think that the most significant inspiration comes out of clay itself. Its features, flexibility, and softness, this moment that a clay sheet firms, and you can sense with your fingers its inner strength, and how it can hold himself in a shape and form. The new ways to unravel traditional forms and to play with them are the force that attracts and motivates me forward.

Besides the clay, my inspirations come from many fields. Fashion and architecture are very exciting to me, and always stimulates me into a new way of making a pot or a pattern. I get relaxed and concentrated by good music. There’s always music filling up my studio and although I live in a nature reserve, overlooking at the Mediterranean Sea, I'm very attracted to the aesthetic language of the industrial shapes. I love the old industrial buildings and factories, old transportation vehicles, ships and airplanes. Maybe this is the reason that many people say that my clay pots look a bit like metal.

Contemporary handmade pottery by FreeFolding Ceramics on Etsy
Large ceramic bowl ($126)
Contemporary handmade pottery by FreeFolding Ceramics on Etsy
Ceramic espresso cups ($56 for a set of 2)

What aspects of your business/store do you enjoy the most/least?

I'm a one-woman show: creating, designing and making each piece single-handedly, so my first big challenge is the lack of time, and learning how to combine between my creation at the studio, and my very own personal creation – my family

At the beginning, I wanted to live in the studio 24x7. The fact that I had to do the laundry, wash dishes and cook was totally unacceptable to me. But reality forced me to draw the line. It is very comfortable to live above your studio, especially because clay can be a very demanding material, but it does take some discipline.

I also find a challenge and pleasure at the fact that I actually create “slow pottery” in a world that moves in a crazy tempo. I am surrounded by so much visual information, so many images that catch my attention, and this is exciting at times, but can also be overwhelming and confusing. At the studio, the ceramic making process brings my attention to be present now, through small details: the touch of the clay, its temperature, flexibility, the contacts of two sheets, the touch of the delicate pattern lines or the stamped texture, it’s all very sensual, very vivid.

Clay as a material has its own slow metabolism. Preparing the clay, building the pot, drying, firing, glazing, firing again... You can’t rush it. I think the challenge for me is to expose and to point out this “slow making” quality through my teaching, the visuals I use at the social media, and hopefully, my work.

Eventually, I always seek balance. In life, as in my work - the balance between my passion to create, and the obligations of daily life, between the times when I'm making my pots in the studio, to the ones spent in front of the computer promoting and marketing my shop. Between finding my own language in clay, and the endless possibilities of change. Within the clear limits, I can fly.

Contemporary handmade pottery by FreeFolding Ceramics on Etsy
Small ceramic bowl ($30)

Tell us a feedback from a customer that put a smile on your face.

Happily, I get many heartwarming reviews. Phylicia from Alaska was making me very happy for a special reason- packing matters.

I spend so much time, thought and quality wrapping materials in each and every package I ship overseas in order that my ceramic will arrive safely. I get better through time, but still, rarely, there are pots that arrives with some breakage. I will surely always send a new one, but still my heart trembled each time packages are leaving my studio to their new homes.

"It's perfect!! It looks perfect with my wooden utensils. It blends in well with my kitchen yet stands out as a piece of art on my countertops. I absolutely love it! It's so beautiful! It arrived perfectly packaged without any harm done to it. I live in Alaska and a lot of packages arrive rough and tumbled but this one was packaged well enough to handle anything. I'll add a photo shortly! Thanks, Michal! Your work is pristine, and I hope to order again from you! It's worth every penny! "

Michal is kindly offering a 10% discount to shop at her store with coupon code HAPPYPARADISSI.

You can find Michal on facebook, instagram and pinterest.

Contemporary handmade pottery by FreeFolding Ceramics on Etsy

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