Shaping clay with one’s soul

Shaping clay with one’s soul

Meeting a ceramist like Şirin Koçak is a transformative experience.

It is common to share with other ceramists technical information about the ceramic processes of our practice, often we see it as a productive exercise that aims a certain degree of efficiency. We are so focused on a concrete result that the practice becomes a struggle to dominate the material in our own terms. That is fairly understandable, nonetheless Şirin Koçak transcends that approach beautifully.

Born and raised in Bulgaria, Sirin had to migrate to Turkey many years ago. This kind of geographic and vital movement implies the loss and mourning of the status quo. It can take decades to go through the whole process of developing our own internal system to process the loss and to start all over again.

Sirin relates how even the way in which people express affection and hug each other in Istanbul was different from what was familiar to her back then. In that sense, even ‘reading’ love required some adaptation effort.

In that process, one beautiful day she discovered clay. I would have loved to have been able to film the way she closed her eyes and recreated with her fingers that first magical encounter with this material that unites all of us in community: ceramics.

‘I felt that with clay I could touch my feelings, give them shape beyond myself. The clay, its softness and plasticity were an extension of my skin, my fingers, my whole body and my feelings’, explained Sirin with a sweetness and depth that went beyond my computer’s screen nesting in my heart.

From that moment onwards, a dialogue began to be woven between Sirin’s internal universe -and wounds, and clay.

Today, she does not seek to impose an arbitrary form on the material but rather longs to propitiate a dialogue between her inner world and the soft matter until she reconciles a gesture that, repeated many times, naturally transforms the material while she expresses what she feels, creating unique and organic textures. She makes ceramics as contemporary dancers dance: honestly feeling and following that inner pulse.

Finally, her pieces and sets of pieces are vestiges of her feelings in very specific moments of her history and although only she knows the anecdotes that originated them, we can all relate to her sculptures from the simple universal feeling.

Şirin Koçak is part of our team of tutors for the Summer School 2022. Sign up for this wonderful project if you want to deepen in the decoration of your pieces, not only by learning lots of new techniques, but by tapping into that which makes you unique and to manifest it in your creations.


Written by Lucia Pol