tea design: teapots and tea bowls from clair at clamlab

I love tea, I love the leaves and water, but to me tea culture is more than just the leaf, it’s about the artisan teapots and teacups, about the teahouses and the ritual of preparing tea.

In light of that, welcome to a new interview series – this time with some super talented and creative teaware designers.  This interview is with Clair Catillaz from Clam Lab, Clair creates teaware out of a shared studio space in Brooklyn, NYC. Claire digs tea, and I dig her design work.

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Tell me a little about what you design and make – what got you into tea, and into designing teaware.

Teapots are fun to make. Balancing the functional elements; the perfect pour, the feel of the handle, the fit of the lid, is such a delicate process.

A few hundred pots later, they are finally pleasant to use.  That’s what my work is about: lovely things for everyday use. Who cares about a fragile thing that sits on a shelf? I love to cook, eat, and entertain, so I keep making. The form offers so much potential for expression, and really gave me the opportunity to develop my personal style.

clair at work in her shared studio space

What is your inspiration when designing, are there other designers or external sources that you draw upon.

I get most excited about sturdy, industrial kitchenware (I love cast iron) and mid-century glass & ceramics, most notably the work of Eva Zeisel, Russel Wright, and lately, certain things from Raymor.

It’s an interesting contrast, since I really believe in the value of handmade objects, yet most of the things I lust after were designed for the mass market 50-some years ago. I’m a pretty serious eBay addict.

Tell me where in the world are you, and what do you love about it.

I live and work in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. I’m lucky enough to share an amazing studio with 15 other ceramicists. It’s like clay loft heaven. We are constantly learning from one another. I have a nice little plant-filled nook that overlooks the Pulaski Bridge. I’m incredibly lucky to be where I am.

What does tea mean to you.

I’m into it.

I usually make a cup, drink half, let it sit for a few hours, and drink the rest cold. This method is especially good with Japanese Sencha, but is good with a really bergamont-y Earl Grey, too. Artfully developed by never sitting still 😉

dreamy teapot

bony tea bowls

What’s your favorite tea related memory or location and why is it special to you.

While travelling in Viet Nam, I had the privilege of attending a traditional wedding. This was an all-day affair, beginning at the bride’s family home. The food and hospitality were amazing, and the tea was strong and black and served in tiny cups that were never empty.  The wedding was so beautiful and communal and un-fussy, and by the end of the day I felt like a part of the family.

There’s no champagne at Vietnamese weddings, but the tea was pretty heady stuff…

Can you tell me about your favorite tea shop or favorite teaware line.

There is an incredible tea shop in Chinatown (NYC) where I buy loose tea. The service is excellent, and the whole place feels like a old-time apothecary. The best place to drink tea is at Ashbox, the cafe across the street from my studio. Its cozy, the food is mostly Japanese (and delicious), and the tea selection is large and of very high quality. It’s pretty much perfect.

grand st, chinatown (they have extraordinary jasmine pearls)

Where can people find your designs or get in touch with you.

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