Meeting Maia Beyrouti from Moïo Studio
- What brought you to the clay material?
Both the South of France and Palestine have a prominent ceramics culture, so I bathed in this heritage growing up it was all around me from the tiles on the floor and walls to books, jars and sculptures we had. On top of that we had an art teacher at school who was a ceramicist. We had a kiln in the classroom. This made the material familiar and accessible to me and I returned to it continually in my art practice alongside any other work I was doing.
I studied Conservation of organic materials in London and specialized in 19th C photographic techniques, then worked in visual communication after that so clay wasn't a main focus for years but I was clear about wanting a practice that mixed both art and science. I dedicated myself fully to it in my mid 30’s, I was very hungry for working with my hands. I didn't want a future spent working on the computer and clay became the obvious choice.
- You love experimenting on glazes and forms, can you take us through your creative process?
It's absolutely non-linear, at the root I have a feeling for what I am aiming for in terms of form and material and lean towards that feeling. I try to translate it by writing lists of words, and this in turn informs the materials and finishes I develop.
A lot of time in the studio is spent on material research and play parallel to production work, that way I can add smaller test pieces to each firing. When I am happy with a result I'll slowly loop it into production. Outside of the studio I draw and make notes of ideas, anything from shapes to techniques, I already have an established vocabulary of forms which gives the work a sort of editorial line although I like to keep taking it apart, branching out and adding to it. Perhaps that’s also why deconstructing and stacking is more and more a theme in the work itself as it is very much a reflection of my process.
- How does being based in Berlin impact your creativity and your productions?
Berlin right now has a thriving ceramics, crafts and object design scene that is practically invisible to locals unless you're deep in it. There are too few established galleries, platforms or fairs here which support and showcase work on the crossroads of art/crafts/design and it's both a loss and an opportunity. Either way, the really exciting work is being shown abroad and that makes things more difficult logistically. Having said that, the community here has a general attitude of solidarity rather than competition, which is such a positive ground, we tend to know and help one another. In 2021 we presented work by 19 local artists/makers/designers in an artist-led exhibition called “VESSELS” to try and show work that was being made here, it’s just the tip of the iceberg though really. I do wish more was visible locally.
- Can you tell us a bit more about the pieces you made exclusively for Volume Ceramics?
I've been slowly playing around with stacking larger vertical parts on top of my vessels. This can be difficult for technical reasons when pieces get bigger; the clay warps in the kiln, the center of gravity becomes too high, a fragile spot is created at the join. I had done some smaller vessels and I was in a place where I felt comfortable enough going bigger so when Volume contacted me enthusiastically about an experimental glaze mix I showed in my stories, I pitched the idea for making these shapes and got the green light. The new forms, the glaze combo and the collaboration came together effortlessly after months of research it was a beautiful moment.
- Do you listen to music while working? Share with us your playlist at the studio ☺
When I get into a creative flow and my hands get dirty then it's french rap or hip hop. I like Oxmo Puccino, IAM, Mc Solaar, Wu-tang Clan, Missy Elliot, Leikeli47 and I urge you to listen to the surreal beats and lyrics of Infinite Livez. I love surreal and poetic and genre clashes. I also have to mention Kae Tempest and Sleaford Mods, I like a certain gut-power to come through the music when I’m making. If I’m sanding, trimming, glazing it’s usually more instrumental or funk as it's a different kind of concentration, then it's Jun Fukamachi, Sun-Ra, Gilles Scott-Heron, Unforscene, Pink Floyd, Prince or Anette Peacock. I have to mention for truly weird and wonderful my highlight has to be Gregory Whitehead. What he does with sound really inspires me and takes me to new worlds.
- Where do you see your practice headed in the future?
Right now the studio pieces are getting bigger and more sculptural. I like this. I am making stools, side tables and large vases, doing more handbuilding and always, developping new ceramic materials. I’m in a place where the research is starting to bear fruit and I’m able to incorporate more materials into the work, both in glazes and clay body and combining them. Recently someone asked me if I wasn't a maximalist and I think I answered “no” too fast. I am not a maximalist, but I am after a certain punch of energy often found there. It was a good reminder to stay spontaneous with the material, especially as I include more and more expressive materials the tendency is for me to try and control it when I actually I can be more playful and that comes through in the piece. So I am headed toward bigger pieces, more sculpural pieces, and I'm very excited about making some lighting objects in the future.
Portraits by Liza Kin