Published in BRYGG Magazine 13 February 2017
“I can’t even offer you some coffee, since I’m in the middle of moving my studio, there is not much left here”, ceramist Magdalena Kałużna tells me, with an apologising tone, as I enter her calm studio space at Baldersgade, located in Copenhagen’s Nørrebro district. Magdalena is busy cleaning; it’s been a hectic period the last couple of months, which shows in all the batches with different sizes and shapes of cups and plates that are waiting for the kiln.
The atelier feels both intimate and personal. It is just a little over a year since Magdalena opened MK Studio, but she is already overloaded with work from powerful clients like 108, Relæ and Coffee Collective, that she is expanding and moving to a bigger space in the inner city. It is easy to see that ceramics have become a trend in Copenhagen.
So, I’m curious, how could it all happen so fast for you?
– Expect for two months of ceramics in school, I didn’t have any experience with ceramics when moving from Poland to Copenhagen in 2014. But the city, with all its inspirational ceramics, and creative atmosphere, influenced me to give it a try. And then I became so passionate about ceramics while doing an internship at the studio Uh La La, that when I got an offer from 108 to make plates for their new restaurant, I decided to start my own business.
At the same time, she was helping Mikaela Wallgren at The Coffee Collective to make cups for a competition.
–We worked for a while and I showed her a few sketches, we laboured with the colour, form and design together. And from that, I think I created the most perfect cup. It was basically the first ceramic that I made, but it was just perfect.
Magdalena smiles and explains that she loves constantly working with people from different fields.
– It is fantastic to create a product together with someone who knows everything about that specific field. I learn so much from it, and when we can combine visions – that is when the product really becomes incredible.
Magdalena shows me her cups. They are filled with small details and special shapes, which makes it easy to recognize her work. So, I wonder if she has a philosophy, something she always aims to reach with her ceramics? She laughs: “No I don’t like philosophy. I just know what I want to do, I want to make something wonderful for the customer, if the costumer is happy, I’m happy.”
Her passion for ceramics sips through continuously. It seems like this is not just work, but a lifestyle.
– I love the feeling that you create something with your hands from the beginning to the end. For me I can’t define this work, all I do could be considered work. I work all the time, but it is just something I love.
She describes a process of constant learning and development.
– Working with people is such a difference from working with a project at university. Right now I know that when I make something, people will use it – in real life – that is my motivating and learning force.
From the amount of work, and big branded clients, it would be easy to think that there is some sort of factory behind it all, but it is actually the opposite. She delivers big orders, carefully and gently done all by herself.
– There are many reasons why I generally do all this work myself, the first thing is that I just do when I work, which makes it hard to teach someone else my technic and design.”
Sometimes, however, she will team up with her boyfriend Michal Włodarek, but it is not a fulltime partnership. “We are both working a lot on our own, our partnership is more Michal helping me when he’s got time for it”, Magdalena explains.
– The second thing, why I like to work alone, is that I prefer to have control over my work. I want to see the whole process through, be in control both of the design and the quality.
But the ceramic process is long, and it is not possible to really tell, or know, what will happen during that time.
– But you can’t see everything during the process, even if I urge to have control it is not truly possible with such a complex process like this. You need to be patient. It’s is all about the timing, and waiting, and waiting again. But when something goes wrong, if I break a cup, I always know exactly what I did wrong, maybe I moved too fast, or too slow – it is all about timing.
There seems to be no shortcut for ceramics to become brilliant, but one thing that appears to have been significant for Magdalena, is her determination.
– When I started with ceramics, I said to myself that I wanted to be my own boss, to have my own company. When I say something out loud it becomes the truth, I will do that. Nothing is ever impossible for me. So in the beginning, I was spending everyday from morning to midnight learning how to do ceramics, I learned how to make plates in a month, but has since then perfected that process, so I can truly see the difference between my first plate and one I made today.
Magdalena has charmed we with her answers. She talks with such a confidence, but is still gentle in her approach, which makes me think that this it’s maybe just the kind of attitude you need to have to be able to work your way up in such a hard business. “My only limit right now, is the space of the studio” she jokes. But after seeing Magdalena’s devotion to her work, I sure do believe her.