Getting into THE WORKS with EN_CERAMICA – Berlin-based potter

Ennio aka EN_CERAMICA is a Berlin-based potter, who’s pieces are so beautiful! I was very curious about the process of creation. We have known each other for so long that I can’t even recall when we first met. So, I thought about visiting him in his studio, chatting about his art and process and finally seeing the artist in action.

When did you start pottery?
I started in 2018.

That’s quite new.
Yeah, around two and a half years ago.

Are you self-taught?
I took a course in a studio here in Neukölln; I went once a week for a month and loved the practice immediately. The moment I put my hands on the clay and the wheel started turning I was like, wow, I love this. After the course was over I bought monthly passes and went as many times as I could. That’s when I started my instagram, documenting my journey with clay and ceramics. Then a friend of mine asked me if I could make 100 cups for a project he was working on and I immediately said, okay, let’s do this! I jumped in head first and learned so much with this first order. He owns a perfume company called AER, and they teamed up with another person who makes candles and needed the vessels for the wax. That went well, they loved it and asked me for more!

That’s a really good idea for a candle.
Hang on, my mum passed in February 2018, so yes I started in the summer 2018.

After your mum passed?
Yeah, I mean it’s been a while now, but as you can imagine it was a huge loss in my life. I think there is always a special connection between a mother and her gay son. After her passing I felt like another person. It’s a weird feeling, I felt pretty lost and at some point I had the need to find myself again, I guess ceramics did that.

What were you doing before?
I lived in London for 16 years and worked in television, I had a very technical job there. I then moved here because I needed a change. At first, I was going back and forth between London and Berlin but at some point it became too much for me so I decided to leave my old job and make Berlin home. Soon after that, my mum died and after about 6 months I took the ceramic course. I really feel her passing played a big part in my journey as a potter. Everything happens for a reason right?! She may have left this world, but maybe she led me to pottery, sounds strange but it did feel connected.

Shall I just walk you through the process?
So the first step is wedging, this is very important especially when working with recycled clay which may have air bubbles trapped inside. This is a new batch, so I won’t be spending too much time on this. If the clay is too hard I leave it in a bag with some water overnight, so that the water gets absorbed by the clay and is ready to be wedged in the morning.
I just wet a little the wheel head so the clay sticks onto it, at this point I have to center the lump of clay onto the wheel; this process is called centering. To do this I squeeze the clay between my hands and I push it back down while the wheel is spinning. My hands have to be constantly wet during this process or friction will make the lump of clay go off-center.

As you can see now, the lump of clay is not wobbling like it did at the beginning, I now know this is centered. Now is time to open up the piece, I do this with my thumbs and I push down towards the wheel, now I gently release before touching the wheel. So, now I opened it, and I’m going to pull this wall towards me to enlarge it further. At this point is a matter of pulling all the clay that is at the bottom towards the top.

It’s great, isn’t it? If you think about It, is such an ancient craft, this exact same thing was done centuries and century ago and not much has changed. There’s evidence that suggests wheels were actually created to be used as potter’s wheels around 3500 B.C. in Mesopotamia. I find it so fascinating, I love anything old and ancient, It must be cause I am from
Rome and I grew up surrounded by history and artefacts.

So back to the piece you are making now. It’s like a ring, it looks funny.
Yes, this next step is called pulling; I am catching clay from the very bottom and pull it up to the top. I do this about three times, until I have pulled all the clay from the bottom. The aim is to have an even wall from bottom to top.

How many pieces do you do in a day?
It depends on what I am making, I once threw 50 cups in one day and in another occasion I made 20 plates in one go, it was a bit of a killer but felt pretty good at the same time.

What’s your favourite procedure?
I used to love throwing and didn’t like at all trimming, but for now is actually the other way around. Trimming is when I take the clay object in a leather hard state and put it back onto the wheel to make the ring foot at the bottom.

How long does the firing of the items take?
The kiln takes between 9 and 12 hours to fire the clay and another 12 for the kiln to cool down. When I do a glaze firing the kiln goes up to 1220 degrees and I open it at about 50 degrees. For this job you have to have a lot of patience, if you’re in a rush, it’s not going to work well.

It’s a good hobby to learn patience.
Exactly, if you are open to it, it teaches you to be patient and to let go of control.

So now you’re also giving workshops yourself. Did someone book a class already?
Yes, I give classes now, and I am really enjoying it, I met some great people and I love seeing students getting better on the wheel. Who would have thought I was going to teach pottery one day!

How many sessions are you offering?
Depends on the workshop, this one for example is called “The Work”, and is four sessions in three to four weeks. You will learn the full process from start to end, how to throw and trim simple shapes such as cylinders and bowls and finally a glazing session.

How long is it?
The first three sessions are about two and a half to three hours; the glazing takes about an hour.

So, in the end, you’re going to have your little ceramic to take home?
Yes by the end of the course you take home about 5 pieces.

5 pieces? That’s a lot!

Did you finish the job you were doing for the restaurant?
I finally did yes, it took longer than I expected as I was in the middle of moving studio when I took the order; I was so happy once it was done but also a strange feeling of emptiness. These plates were with me for the whole lockdown so when I delivered them to Hinterland it also marked the end of lockdowns, it was pretty emotional. Now that this is done, I have the space in my head to think and allow for future project to come.

Recently Keller Kreuzberg a new queer store in Berlin asked me if I would be up for making something for their store, something more queer. I made some vases with huge dicks on them. I used to have a Tumblr and before they banned all the adult content on it I saved all the photos I collected through the years. I had transferred some of these photos onto the vases.

That’s exciting! When do you have to do that?
It’s already on sale on their website and instagram page.

All pictures by @martin_piekarski

Instagram: @en_ceramica