“Art is never finished, only abandoned.” One of Nam Tran’s favourite quotes by Leonardo da Vinci turns out to be a very apt description of his own journey with ceramics.
From making pots on a wheel in his home as a teenager and deepening his skills at Central Saint Martins, to reluctantly giving up ceramics after his first year studying for a Masters at the Royal College of Art; Nam’s journey has had more ups than downs.
Perhaps without the generosity and encouragement of his former mentor, friend, and Central Saint Martins technician, David Cooke, the world may not have witnessed the results of the innovative thinking Nam puts into his work.
Nam’s story illustrates how the importance of a mentor can never be under-estimated. David’s unwavering support has proved an invaluable asset for Nam to continue to pursue his dream of reinventing functional objects. It was David’s last will and testament that Nam receive his entire life’s work and studio; and he would be proud of what Nam has been able to achieve with his life-changing gift.
“David made me realise there was more to me than meets the eye. He always said being technical is great; yet it’s the concept and thinking behind a piece you will be remembered for. It was his last generous act of kindness which enabled me to leave my supermarket job to continue pursuing my dream of being a ceramicist and establish my studio, Cernamic.”
Nam specialises in wheel thrown raku. His drive to reinvent functional objects is clear in the innovative design of the Chop Stick Cup handles; the Corky Cup; and the shape and patterning of his bubble cups and crockery. “My heritage encourages me to explore how different cultures think and use daily objects. The way we use and hold objects is determined by cultural and environmental influences. I’m trying to create a new sense of feel and touch that will hopefully be accepted. I am overjoyed people really see something different in our designs.”
Nam says his own range is a spin off from what is the norm and how far he can push it. The raw earthiness of the clay colour provides a wonderful textural beauty with no two pieces created being the same. The tonal variations in the glaze are achieved in combination with the ingredients in the clay.
“My ceramics begin as a small concept and then I let them snowball through the medium. So I’m lead by my practice of making through process. Ideas are great but sometimes the material and technique will push an idea forward or even refine it. It’s very important to know my materials and to know the technique so well that I can foresee what is plausible and understand the constraints. I then consider how to go about breaking those barriers and limits.”
“Clay is so transformational as a medium. A lump of clay can be turned into anything with the right techniques and knowledge. It’s like magic; turning nothing into something with intent and thought. For me, the most joyful part is when I open the kiln. It feels like Christmas when you don’t know what you’re getting.”
He has been able to capitalise on the rising interest of people wanting to experience working with clay which has, in part, been fed by reality TV shows like ‘The Great Pottery Throw Down’. Nam’s appearance in Series 2 which aired earlier this year has led to continued interest in the beginner pottery classes he offers at various locations around London. “It’s great to see my students experience the joy of creating something truly unique with a personal connection.”
“My aim is to gain worldwide recognition for Cernamic; from the West to the Far East.” Nam is currently working with a selection of top designers and architects to develop a new range and is well on his way to achieving this goal.
Images show a selection of the Chop Stick Cup and Corky Cup.
All images supplied. Images © Cernamic, Photographer Sampada Gurung.