Review: Pottery workshop with Anja from ClayElej

I made this!

Back in September my boyfriend and I took part in what was, for me, a rather unusual activity. We attended a pottery workshop in Ljubljana with Anja from ClayElej, where we both made a mug and a small plate of a very autumnal red-brown clay with a white glaze.

Anja has her own brand of handmade studio pottery and makes absolutely beautiful plates, mugs, cups, baking trays, bowls and pretty much everything you can think of in every shape, colour and size. All her ClayElej creations are so gorgeous I just want to buy everything and live in a ceramics cave (no, really, it’s a problem).

In fact, that is how this whole pottery adventure started, because I found out about ClayElej on Instagram from a friend. My boyfriend and I both loved her work, so we ordered two grey bowls and two interesting, twisted serving plates. She was super friendly and helpful during the whole process and I got to choose the size, colour, texture and all the details of my order, and I’ll definitely be ordering stuff again. You can see some examples of her work below – she says she likes primal, organic shapes and techniques and prefers to make everything by hand, as she rarely even uses a pottery wheel, because it just doesn’t call to her as much. I don’t know much about pottery, but I think that’s pretty cool.

You might have seen her grey bowls in some of my food posts before and since I wanted to support her work and spread the word, I always tagged her in my Instagram food posts and stories. Eventually we ended up as social media friends and she offered me a discount for one of her upcoming pottery workshops, so full transparency, yes I got a discount for promoting her brand, and no, it was not in exchange for this review post – I am writing this one, because she deserves it and the workshop was awesome.

The pottery workshop was held in her cosy studio hut on a Thursday afternoon. There were only 4 of us (40€ per person), which made for a very relaxed atmosphere and Anja was able to take the time and help each person with their creation. First she explained a bit about different types of clay and basic techniques, then we got to work. Although we were working with a pre-prepared mug template to make it easier, she encouraged us to experiment with it, make it smaller, with different edges, patterns and textures, so we ended up with very different final products. We had a short coffee and snacks break in the middle, during which we got to admire the antics of their tiny orange cat, but we were done with our mugs and plates by the same evening.

Impressions from the workshop

Through it all, Anja was available with lots of advice, ideas and recommendations. She explained all the possibilities and what the final product will look like, because clay tends to shrink quite a bit after baking, and she helped us decide how we wanted her to glaze our mugs and plates once they were done. In fact, she even fixed our wonky mugs by hand and helped us ensure that the creations we took home would look like something we could be proud of and would actually enjoyed using.

As someone who was never very good with shaping clay, that is what I appreciated most of all. I was left fairly traumatised by the primary school clay art classes with dubious instructions, where they gave you a piece of clay and told you to make something. All the kids were making what I considered to be advanced pottery and there I was with weirdly shaped lumps and bowls that fell apart after baking. I figured pottery would never be one of my talents and resolved to stay away from it for life, so I was a bit apprehensive when Anja invited me to her workshop.

However, as you can see in the photo gallery below, the final products turned out amazing and I am incredibly happy with them. My boyfriend made an archaeology inspired mug and plate with the ring and dot historical pattern, while I made a woodsy mug and a dragon plate (of course). The texture on my mug is supposed to be similar to tree bark, which was a bit more pronounced before baking, but it still looks pretty cool now. I’d decided to give the mug to my friend and podcast creative director Eva for her birthday beforehand, so the mug and the plate don’t fit together, but my new dragon plate is just big enough for a piece of apple strudel. 🙂

So, thank you Anja for showing me that I can actually make something nice out of clay and for making me enjoy pottery again!

Before and after

If you are from Slovenia and want to try something different, I cannot recommend her workshops enough, because they’re relaxed, fun and you will leave with something to cherish, even if you think you’re horrible with clay. As for her pottery, all her products are handmade, unique and have that bit of soul in them that makes your food and drinks taste just a little bit better every time + you’ll be supporting a local Slovenian artist and helping a woman live her dreams through her pottery. She’s also planning a webshop soon, so keep an eye on her webpage and Instagram even if you’re not based in Slovenia and consider ordering your very own unique plate from a weird, tiny European country, because I promise you, it will be great!

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