Claudia Lau is a wunderkind of ceramic design. At just 25, she founded House Editions, a ceramics studio that specialises in pieces of “the refined domestic” - purposeful designs for the home that delicately balance strength and fragility; functionality and ornamental beauty. We visited Claudia at her studio and home in Melbourne to learn more about her visionary approach to this ancient artform.
Claudia Lau may be young, but her knowledge of the ceramic medium spans centuries. She possesses the intellectual curiosity of an alchemist or historian, and in many ways that’s precisely what she is. Perhaps this is why at just 25, Claudia launched House Editions, a ceramic design and production studio based between her home in Melbourne and Jingdezhen, a town in China historically known for its porcelain production.
“My relationship with clay started in high school, but it was only when I started learning to throw on the wheel in 2015 did I reestablish my affinity for ceramics,” Claudia says of her formative experiences. While enrolled in communication design at university, she found herself drawn to “the tactile nature of clay” and began studying under established potters in Melbourne, where she gained early production studio experience. Not one to do anything by halves, Claudia is furthering her education at the School of Clay and Art. As she explains, “research and study is an integral part of the ceramics process as limited technical knowledge can be a creative constraint. I am currently continuing my studies at SoCA, which has helped me reflect and reevaluate, and deepen my practice and relationship with ceramics and art.”
House Editions, then, is the result of rigorous investigation and preternatural talent. “I always had the vision of creating House Editions, but it was a matter of building my material knowledge base and maturing my practice before I had the confidence to launch,” Claudia tells. Opportunities to exhibit her work in stores and galleries reinforced that confidence, and today she divides her time between sculptural and research-based practice in Melbourne and technical production in Jingdezhen. By working closely with this studio, Claudia has developed a deeper connection with the history of ceramics and knowledge in both traditional and experimental production methods. “Collaboration is layered into every process… each piece starts with an intention guided by research of its historical significance and a reflection of my own relationship with the object,” Claudia explains. Initial sketches are then prototyped on the wheel or hand-built, and details are refined. No one production technique fits all, Claudia says. “It always follows the design.”
A marriage of traditional methods and contemporary technology is ingrained in House Editions. Particular skills have been honed though an immersion in the town of Jingdezhen, while Claudia’s interest in sustainable design guides her experimental and independent approach. She also says new technologies such as 3D printing are employed to “bring a level of refinement and consistency to the work”. And on the topic of experimentation, Claudia’s evolving use of glazes is nothing short of breathtaking - her favourite to date is the exquisite Velvet Landscape. “Glaze research and development is my translation of capturing nature without imitating,” she says of the curiosity that informs her House Editions glazes. Evidently, the ceramic medium is Claudia’s way of discovering and reflecting on her relationship with nature. “Ceramics can be just clay and fire,” she says. “But once immersed in the practice, you realise that there is a long history to the medium. The process leans on a materiality that is built on centuries of culture and the exchange of inherited knowledge. I feel privileged to be part of continuing this tradition.”
In December 2021, a House Editions exhibition and pop-up store opened at Oigåll Projects in Melbourne. This was the first time Claudia was able to share her work with the community in a gallery space after years of lockdowns. Alongside her ceramics, Claudia presented the first non-ceramic objects including glassware, vases and utensils. Of the team behind Oigåll Projects, Claudia says, “I am very lucky to call them my friends, they are inspiring and so much fun to work with and to dream ideas with. They were a supporting vision in letting House Editions take the next step with a physical iteration.” Indeed, it’s the community that surrounds Claudia that inspires her most. “It’s inspiring to be surrounded by creatives confident in their practice, but also support and challenge me,” she says. A natural host, Claudia regularly holds dinners at home for her friends, and their influence even extends to her wardrobe - “I love experimenting and having fun,” she says of her style. “It also helps that I live with a stylist, so the ‘fun’ items are never far.” Claudia says she also finds creative inspiration through travel and new cultural exchanges. “Being engaged in a community that has a deep respect for sustainable and ethical practices has made me rethink design processes, production and materials.”
To call Claudia a perfectionist would be an apt description. As she eloquently puts it, “porcelain is a material made for a perfectionist, it takes patience as well as skill. The elegance of porcelain comes from its paradoxical qualities - hardness, softness, solidity, translucence, whiteness - which gives this material its otherwordly beauty and strength.”