Hana Karim grew up in the Western part of Slovenia, surrounded by painting and pottery studios. As a child of two artists, Hana was always around art materials, paintings, sculptures, artists and everything that came with that. Museum visits and conversations about art was a norm for the Karim family. As a little girl, she was certain that everyone in the world had an art studio in their house.
Hana's mother Silva is a ceramist and visual arts professor at an elementary school. Her parents encouraged her to see that ceramics could be a passion, a form of artistic expression and also a potential business path. In the initial 10 years, Hana worked on ceramic jewelry before delving into homeware. Hana uses the jewelry making techniques and adapts that unique style to give a unique character to the bowls, cups and plates of her homeware line, because of which her work is immediately recognisable. Hana's father's Iraqi Kurdistan heritage has influenced the the colour palette of Hana's work.
If you were a movie, what is your story?
Well, sometimes I think my life is a movie! It’s full of funny twists and challenges and also overwhelming events that make me go “Huh?! Did that really happen??”
What has been your biggest challenge? How did you overcome it?
My biggest challenge has been and still remains running this brand. When I started with it I haven’t had any idea how much logistics, preparation, organisation is behind it. It requires a lot of planning ahead and at first I felt a bit lost. It still gets challenging, but I think the more of it I overcome, the more you can handle in the future.
How would you define your design style? What do you think has shaped the way you design?
I have always seen my work - whether it was jewellery or ceramics - as something very intuitive. The more I try to force somethings the more it keeps losing the purity of expression. I’ve learned the importance of gaining a creative confidence; it requires a lot of patience and time to find your own original voice and also courage to show it to the public.
As an entrepreneur, what advice would you give to other young designers who want to have something of their own one day?
First of all - be patient. There is a sea of ideas flowing through social media feeds every day and it might make you wonder why am I even doing this, when everything has seemingly already been done. I strongly believe there is an original story in every creative, each one has their own way of telling it through their means of creativity. Second of all - be courageous. Your work will not be for everyone but it will be for someone.
Top 5 favourite designers.
It’s hard to answer this. I love Japanese designers! I’m also happy to be surrounded with a lot of Slovenian designers which I’m honoured to call friends such as Janža Dolinšek, Anamarija Bukovec, both were my apprentices and I’m incredibly happy to see them evolve and grow. I was just recently in Victoria and Albert Museum in London again, where they keep a huge collection of world ceramics; there are some incredible pieces dating hundreds and even thousands or years ago. I especially loved the work by old Persian masters with whom I share the admiration of green and blue tones.
Name a mentor or someone who impacted your career and life. And how?
First person that pops in to my mind is my mom Silva. As an art teacher she also provided me with an amazing source of everyday motivation to explore art and be creative. She was the one who introduced me to ceramics, my first teacher.
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
Probably getting my own studio. It’s the ultimate home of my creating.
Hanas's studio reflects her personal aesthetics and is filled with objects that inspire her. Its a bright space that faces the lively street of of the Ljubljana Centre, which gives it a special urban charm.
Talk about a time you failed at something or thought you did – but how it molded you in some way.
I work with a medium, that is as unpredictable as it is surprising; there’s always a sense of so called failure in the back of my mind. I try to experiment as much as I can; sometimes it turns fine, sometimes it doesn’t. I learned to apply this same approach to life. Sometimes some things just intuitively feel wrong or right; I rely on this sense a lot.
A quote you live by… or a quote you love.
There is a quote in Slovenian language that says “luck is on the side of the brave”.
The hardest part of your job is….
Cleaning the never-ending mess. Or finding the right tool when I need it.
The part of the design process you love most.
Opening the kiln after the glaze firing is by far the most exciting part of my creating. I feel I share this feeling with most of ceramicists. It’s seeing what comes out after a long journey your pieces have to undergo before they take their final shape. My absolute favourite comes after: taking photos of my work. It’s almost as challenging as designing pieces itself - trying to find a harmonious balance between a group of objects. I love playing around with compositions, shapes and colour palettes.
The part of the design process you least like.
It’s hard to say, which is the least favourite. There’s a lot of preparation before shaping clay in desired ways. The part of preparing the clay holds a significant importance to the whole process - it prevents technical mistakes, cracks, etc., but it’s demanding and requires great patience.
Do you have a dream project? What is it?
I’ve always been curious about how my shapes would hold up if they were existing as art forms placed on the wall. As some sort of ceramics paintings. This is definitely something I have on my bucket list.
If there is one thing you want people to know or be inspired by from your story – what is it?
I’d say be patient with yourself and your work and something good will come out of it. Don’t force it. Take it easy and enjoy the process.
Are there any other outlets you express creativity? How did that come about?
Not really. My life is evolving with and around clay constantly. Ceramics is a medium that allows numberless creative explorations and therefore keeps you continuously curious.
What makes you happy?
Doing what I love and spending time with people I love.
What is your morning routine before you begin work?
It’s nothing earth-shattering to be honest.
I get up as early as I can which means around 7.30, sometimes 9.00; eat my breakfast in bed while replying emails; then get ready for another studio day. My studio is across the street from my apartment which is awesome. I’m usually accompanied by my miniature schnauzer, Mei who spends most of her studio time examining the street through the window and keeps me updated if anything moves with some loud barking.
"When I wake up in the morning, I know immediately whether it is a good day to create something new, or whether I will not be able to hold clay in my hands at all."
What music do you listen to when you work?
I used to listen to a lot of music while working. Sometimes it was varying from urban hip-hop to soul and jazz. Lately I mostly listen to podcasts. I like history and psychology podcasts; I don’t mind if my thoughts sometimes drift off to some other places while I’m creating. There are times when I just want to listen to a lively street noise coming from outside my studio.
What is an important lesson you’ve learnt over the years as a designer that you would like to share with other designers?
When I started with pottery I was “all over the place” in creative sense. There were some plates, some bowls, some mugs, some had text on them, some lines, some dots; there were very geometric shapes and also crazy abstract organic. I was so confused! I wanted to try everything and at the same time find the original voice that will only be mine. It was driving me crazy. I finally realised sometimes it’s good to stick with things you really like doing, because there will be things you’ll only think you should be doing that will lead to disappointment. You don’t have to master every possible aspect of such a vast skill; master one or two you really enjoy and others will follow.
Hana, through her years of practice in ceramic art, and her ritualistic meditation and yoga has mastered the unpredictability of life as a freelance ceramic artist. Her work gives her the freedom of defining her path and exploring her creative expression. She hopes to soon start creating furniture and lamps for interiors, and is excited to see where her design journey takes her.
'Whatever your work is, keep doing it. Your purpose, your art, will land in the hearts it's meant to. You won't be for everyone, but you are for someone. And to that someone, what you have to give matters. And that changes everything"
Written and Edited: Kamsin Mirchandani