Camino recently partnered with a local artisan to bring you a special holiday gift set. Steffi, of Steffi Acevedo Ceramics creates unique pottery pieces that are as beautiful as they are practical. Keep reading to learn more about the artist, teacher, and woman entrepreneur behind these limited-edition mugs.
For some time, we wanted to be able to offer some Camino mugs we can feel good about in terms of where and how they were made. And that’s how we came across Steffi’s ceramics, a young Canadian artisan based in our hometown of Ottawa. Her minimalist and playful style was exactly what we were looking for in our mugs. We met with her, and she gave us the tour of her new studio. There we were able to observe firsthand the labour-intensive techniques of working with clay and the beauty of her finished pieces.
Steffi has been a lover of the arts her whole life and discovered pottery while still in high school. She states, “The material really intrigued me.” Her parents encouraged her to pursue a career in what she loves, so she earned her Bachelor of Fine Arts, with a concentration in ceramics. She explains that she focused on sculpture, which led her to more functional pieces. After graduation, she started selling her work online, teaching pottery as well as working as a technician in Ottawa studios. Since then, she has expanded her business to include a school where she teaches drawing and painting, as well as the art of pottery.
Connecting with Clay
Steffi teaches the same technique that she herself uses to create the pottery pieces she sells. This ancient technique, known as handbuilding, or slab building, predates the potter’s wheel. It involves rolling the clay out and shaping it with her hands. When asked why she chose handbuilding rather than a potter’s wheel to create circular pieces, Steffi explains, “I connect with the clay better. It’s a different pace. The wheel is a faster way of working; if you do the wrong motion, it can fall off or turn into a disaster.” But with handbuilding, she can alter and fix problems more readily. This technique also lends itself well to beginners of all ages and abilities, as her students have discovered.
An Amazing but Labour-Intensive Process
To make a cylinder such as for mugs, Steffi first rolls the clay, cuts out a rectangle, smooths it out and connects the two ends to make a cylinder. Then, she adds another piece to form the bottom and lets it air dry before adding a handle. Once the clay is fully dry, it goes into the kiln at 1800 degrees for two days, and then it cools down slowly. After cleaning off the dust from the firing, she dips the mugs in food-safe glaze and returns it to the kiln for two more days at an even hotter temperature, 2200 degrees. It’s so hot, it can take 12 hours for the kiln to fully heat up. At this stage, the pottery is vulnerable to breakage, so it is imperative that the kiln remain closed until it is cool. She emphasizes that you cannot cut corners or be in a hurry when working with clay. But she describes every time she opens the kiln to see the transformation of the pottery as “an amazing feeling.”
Clay, an Artform Everyone Can Learn
Steffi’s excitement about creating pottery and art in general is what led her to opening her art school. She has always felt that art is an opportunity for people to connect, express themselves, and to release stress. She notes that since the pandemic, there is an even greater need. She says it is not just the act of making something that is therapeutic but processing internal thoughts and feelings during the making and seeing the physical product helps deal with stress. “My school,” she says, “has been my dream since forever.”
The school, located in Orleans, in the east end of Ottawa, is not just a place to receive learners of all backgrounds and abilities, but also teachers with different backgrounds and techniques. She describes her learning centre as a place where artistic expression takes flight, regardless of ability, whether through short classes in small groups or even one-off workshops. With Steffi and art, the possibilities seem limitless.
Pottery Teaches Some Good Life Lessons
Besides the satisfaction of passionately making pieces for others for their daily lives, and inspiring her students to express themselves through art, Steffi says that working with clay has taught her many important lessons.
1. Pottery teaches you to let go and not hold onto things too tightly;
2. Flaws occur, but they can be beautiful;
3. Some things cannot be recreated. But you can always make a new version;
4. You can’t control every aspect of the process.
Despite anyone’s best efforts, damaged pieces are sometimes part of the process with making pottery. And, as an artisan who makes her own glazes, sometimes Steffi can’t exactly reproduce the same ones. But these minor frustrations pale in comparison to the joy she finds in her work. She says she is excited knowing that people all over Ottawa use her pottery every morning. “My work is on the shelves of a lot of different cupboards!”
A Mug You Can Feel Good About
Whether you give one of Steffi’s beautiful mugs as a gift or keep it for your own cupboard, it’s a mug you can feel good about. Our new Camino mugs promote a Canadian artist and female entrepreneur from Ottawa. Each mug is unique, handmade with care by a young artist passionate about art and sharing her craft. Sipping your favourite fair trade beverage from one of Steffi’s mugs will warm your morning routine in more ways than one.
To order your Camino mug, please click here.