Kenyan-born ceramicist, Lana Trzebinski, embraces a wabi sabi philosophy, revealing the profound beauty hidden in nature's imperfections. Harriet Brennan visits the studio where Lana shapes Kenya's rich clay into organic sculptures.


 Ceramicist Lana Trzebinski, photographed at her light-filled studio © Chiara Bini


As in the human heart, so too in nature – beauty and the divine are often revealed in the gifts of imperfection. This is the limitless creative space in which Kenyan-born ceramicist Lana Trzebinski finds inspiration for her organic sculptures: from nature’s freeform geometry and the infinite possibilities of artistic accident.

Each sculptural piece, moulded with Kenya’s rich clay, reflects sacred natural forms. These are then transformed - by Lana’s personal alchemy of individually mixed glazes - into sculptures that manifest the enduring beauty of imperfection.

Born and based in Kenya, Lana has often used her art to overcome personal challenges and tragedy. Nowhere is this redemption more apparent than in her bright light-infused white studio in Nairobi – part refuge and retreat, part healing anvil on which are forged new works birthed with an enigmatic creative force.

Ceramic works by Lana Trzebinski on display at Lana's family home in Nairobi


“I think sometimes words are brutal and deficient to describe the unknowable miracles of the creative process,” Lana says. “What I do know, is that in my studio there is order being created out of chaos - a place of calmness, clarity and healing where nature's organic patterns and working with one’s hands and individually mixed glazes, without any certainty of the result, makes these pieces imperfectly perfect – like us”.

“This studio is my world and mine alone,” she says. “I know who I am here. I am known in a self-created identity, not linked to any outside person or event but to a pure, innocent and ultimately private place of ever expanding magic, mystery and creation.”

If fractal geometry and nature’s organic shapes are an inspiration, and Africa’s rich red clay is the material form, then the final piece of the artistic alchemy comes in the glazes. Lana mixes her own glazes – hundreds and hundreds of powders blended, formulas tried and tested in myriad experiments of infinite possibility with meticulous notes and tables kept in leather bound books.

But no matter how much testing, Lana can never be sure of the final result, of how each individual glaze will react with each individual sculpted form in the kiln. Some glazes may bubble or drip or transform in the heat of the kiln. And so some element of accident comes into the magical formula and the artist’s ability to see whether what has been finally created is a gift of imperfection.

“I feel strongly that my work doesn’t have to be explained or constrained in words. What words, after all, can come even a fraction close to describing the feelings we have when we see the beauty of a flower?”

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