Meet Ana Kerin: The Creative Behind The Brand Kana London
To celebrate launching a small edit of Kana’s London’s pieces this season, we wanted to get to know the creative behind the brand and how she became one of London’s most-loved ceramicists. We visited Ana’s studio space in Hackney to talk about her inspiration, collaborations, workshops and why she loves living and working in the capital.
Can you tell us a little bit about Kana for those who are new to it? How did it come about?
I’m a sculptor and a painter; my background is deeply rooted in fine art. I never loved the functional side of ceramics initially, but slowly alongside my studio practice, this side of my work grew naturally. I used to create small pieces to experiment with new clays and glazes because I was interested in texture. Eventually, when people came to visit my studio, they’d buy the small ceramic pieces more than my art.
I think they appeal because they can be used every day; as platters, bowls and so on. It’s less intimidating to invest in things for a home and I liked bringing art closer to people in this way. Functional pieces are an easy – and beautiful – way to have conversations.
How did you get into ceramics and where does your love for creating stem from?
My creativity is constantly charged and recharged by my fine art practice. I often made pieces using clay, so that material was always around me. I craft my pieces in a very experimental way.
What different types of ceramics do you create?
I have a big tableware range. There’s the basic collection – which was my first – and that has continued to grow. I’ve added a set of 5 vases and I played with a sculptural approach for these. From here I introduced more pieces, including my nude collection which is very popular.
What’s your favourite thing to make?
I really enjoy making the spoons. They’re so instant and it is really a moment, yet each one has a different character. There’s always a playful element to them. I also love making the white serving bowls – they are one of my staples. They’re more spacious, so you can really see the strokes of my hands.
You create ceramics by hand rather than turning them on the wheel, why is that? What do you like best about working with clay?
I trained on the wheel on one of my courses but I never liked the level of control it takes. I really admire the skill – it is incredible – but the idea of creating the same perfect pieces over and over again wasn’t for me. My way of working allows for quick changes and my design evolves quickly into something unique.
I like that working with clay draws on four basic materials: soil, water, air and fire. There is nothing more primitive than this – it’s back to basics. That’s what my brand is all about; creating simple pieces that you can invest in and cherish.
"I like that working with clay draws on four basic materials: soil, water, air and fire. There is nothing more primitive than this – it’s back to basics. That’s what my brand is all about; creating simple pieces that you can invest in and cherish."
Can you tell us a little bit about your creative process? Where does your inspiration come from?
I’m inspired by the people I meet and in another life, I would have liked to have studied anthropology or social studies. I’m also a fan of contemporary ballet and dance and I go to a lot of gigs – all of which inspire me. Food is important too; I visit a lot of restaurants.
How would you describe your work in a few words?
Tactile, modern – but rustic – and classic. These are pieces you can keep forever.
You also run a variety of workshops. Can you tell us a little bit about these and how they run?
I’ve been teaching for many years and here at Kana, I’ve created a programme that fits into people’s busy London lives. We offer one-off taster sessions where you get to create and try different techniques, but it’s also something you can return to.
We also offer longer themed sessions that run over three weeks, where you can create tableware sets, tea sets, planters and vases. We focus on particular pieces and the groups are always small, so we can give people enough attention.
You have collaborated with various people/brands such as At The Table and Alexa Coe. How do you decide who to work with and how does this collaborative process work?
They often come to me but with Alexa, we had lots of friends in common and met naturally. We started planning studio days together and the work started to evolved naturally. Collaborations keep me excited and I want a platform where I can continue to work with others.
What have you learnt along the way during the creation and running of Kana?
One of the big realisations has been that growth can happen in many ways when you run your own business – it’s not always about scale. For me it’s more about the freedom of going to different places and doing different things with people.
I never had a starting business model or plan, I found it better to let that build over time whilst working out what my strengths were. My strength lies in my collaborations and that’s what I get most excited about – it’s what is best for my brand. It wasn’t part of an original business plan.
Have there been any challenges and learnings along the way?
Finding the right studio space – that was a big one – and finding a balance between how much teaching, how much creating and how much wholesale was right for my brand.
“One of the big realisations has been that growth can happen in many ways when you run your own business - it’s not always about scale.”
What do you like to do on your days off?
I like having Sundays off and going for brunch, or having friends over for dinner and wine. I do like productive days off though and I often have to catch up on admin and the boring stuff.
What’s your favourite thing about London?
London really gives you as much as you are willing to give it. It’s a very special place. I love the mixture of cultures and how the dynamic is constantly changing. It’s always sad when my friends move away but the continual flow of new people arriving is so refreshing. It’s not always an easy place to live but the changes always bring healthy new perspectives.
What’s next for you?
If everything goes well, I’m launching my glass collection this autumn-winter, but we’ll see as I have experienced delays before. That’s the beauty of this type of work – you never know how it will go.