Meet the East Hampton-Based Artist Creating Striking Tableware
Anna Cléjan’s strikingly spare ceramic plates, trays, and bowls are so sculptural that they might seem intended as purely decorative, but the East Hampton–based artisan is adamant that her work be “incorporated into people’s daily rituals, whether at the dinner table or as a place to hold their jewelry,” she says. “It’s about elevating everyday experiences.”
Cléjan, a native Long Islander, was first introduced to ceramics in the late 1980s, while she was pursuing degrees in art and psychology at Marymount Manhattan College. In 1995, she began taking ceramics classes at the Manhattan arts and education nonprofit Greenwich House, and, a couple of years later, started selling her work. “I’ve always been drawn to the process because it makes me feel at ease,” says Cléjan, who favors muted hues—white, black, graphite—that are often inspired by stones, bird feathers, and driftwood. After taking a long break to focus on raising her children, she rekindled her passion for the art form in 2013 and currently practices both wheel-throwing and hand-building out of East Hampton’s East End Clay Works.
To make one of her stoneware pieces, such as a serving tray, Cléjan begins by feeding white clay through a slab roller to create a flat sheet. At a worktable, she smooths the material and cuts out the desired shape with a knife, using an oval ceramic mold as a guide. The clay is then placed into the mold for an hour to help form the tray’s ever-so-slightly curved appearance. After putting the piece on a shelf to harden overnight, Cléjan cleans and trims the edges the next day, and then leaves it to dry for another week. Finally, it’s loaded into the kiln for a bisque firing, glazed, and then refired. “I have a deep appreciation for the earth,” she says, “and I enjoy expressing myself through such an earthy material.”
A version of this article appeared in the November 2017 issue of NYC&G (New York Cottages & Gardens) with the headline: The Good Earth.