Neighbourhood Series: An Interview with Tatyanna Meharry, Owner of Clae
We sat down with the incredibly talented local ceramicist Tatyanna Meharry to discuss how she got into the contemporary craft, what prompted her to open her own studio and how she started teaching others the lay of the land. In this neighbourhood interview, Tatyanna also shares what she loves most about Ōtautahi and a few of her favourite places to visit both in and around the city.
Tatyanna grew up surrounded by artists, in a home where creativity was not only supported but strongly encouraged.
Her grandmother, Doris Lusk, was one of New Zealand’s pioneer potters, a famous landscape artist and Tatyanna’s biggest mentor growing up. She believes her influence and being constantly surrounded by creativity from such a young age played a pivotal role in her artistic development and both who and where she is today.
“While I’ve been working in the creative industry for as long as I can remember, it wasn’t until about 2006 that I started experimenting with pottery. Years after my grandmother passed, I felt an urge to give it a go and enrolled in a series of night classes in Christchurch and I basically became addicted to the craft from that moment on.”
Tatyanna devoted her time and energy to becoming a master of the trade.
With years of practice under her belt and a desire to start teaching others, Tatyanna opened Artplus Creative – a teaching studio in Christchurch offering classes in textiles, ceramics, jewellery and design. Opening day for Artplus, however, was just three months prior to the 2011 earthquakes and her new studio was located directly in the city’s red zone. This inevitably forced Tatyanna to change tack and uproot to a new location.
Despite the misfortune, Tatyanna was inspired to give back to her community the best way she knew how. “Pottery allows people to escape the worries of life and shift their focus toward their creation”, she explained. “After the Christchurch earthquakes, I felt a responsibility to offer support to the community by continuing to teach. I relocated to my own garage for the time being and opened up the space for people to come, destress and create things with clay.”
Tatyanna has relocated to several spaces throughout Christchurch since then, but her passion for ceramics and mission to provide people with a safe space for creativity has remained the same. “I don’t care what my students create, I just want it to be personal to the individual and the process to be enjoyable”, she added. She explains that the most rewarding part of teaching is seeing a student experience that “aha moment – when people let go of worrying and become fully immersed and engaged in the process.”
Clae, Tatyanna’s current studio, was started with the help of her sister Natasha English. The studio is located on Essex Street in a beautiful, shared space with Gwen Parsons, the owner of General Pottery. Clae sells bespoke local products and offers a range of pottery classes for students of varying levels and ages.
Another thing that became abundantly clear during our discussion is how insistent Tatyanna is on using innovative approaches to making ceramics more sustainable. “I believe there’s a real need to move away from consumption and towards a more mindful interaction with the objects we all use in our everyday ritual” she explained. “At Clae, we source our materials from manufacturers in New Zealand and a few ethically conscious companies in Europe. While teaching, our aim is to educate people about where the materials come from to help create a story and stronger connection to the earth.”
Beyond teaching at Clae, Tatyanna facilitates a two-year program, guiding students through the ceramic’s curriculum, at Otago Polytechnic Long Distance programme. She is currently in the midst of an exciting project with the Ashburton Art Gallery and, of course, continues to create her own ceramics which can be found in galleries and stores throughout Aotearoa.
Learn more about Tatyanna’s incredible work, explore the classes and courses Clae offers or shop her beautiful collection of ceramics online at clae.nz.
Born and bred in Ōtautahi, Tatyanna has discovered some great places to visit over the years. Here are a few of her top rated places to check out both in and around the city:
This series is brought to you by our Creative and Digital Partner, Publica.