INI CERAMIQUE is a handmade ceramics studio based in Bourgogne, France, founded by our designer, Inhee Ma. Her ceramics work aims to create decorative pieces, such as vases, teapots, cups, bowls or plates. Through the development of collections built around a minimalist wabi sabi aesthetic, her creations generate a dialogue between craftsmanship, art and nature.

Graduated from the Ecole Supérieure des Beaux-Arts in Montpellier, Inhee Ma is from South Korea and is developing a multidisciplinary activity, combining contemporary art, design and crafts. The INI CERAMIQUE collections emerge from the association between aesthetic inspiration and the functionality of everyday objects.

All INI CERAMIQUE pieces are handcrafted by the designer, in her workshop. In chamotte stoneware, they are then fired at high temperature and present a contrast between a shiny transparent glazed interior and a raw exterior emphasizing the natural texture of the clay.
Please share a bit about yourself and your background.
I come from Seoul, Korea. I studied art there but I moved to France over 10 years ago. I felt the need to discover another way to see, understand and produce Art. It felt natural to me to move to France since it has been an historical place for Art and I was attracted to a French art scene that I saw as dynamic and contemporary. I was also drawn by a lot of aspects of French culture (language, food, music, cinema, etc).
I had the privilege of studying at the École Supérieure des Beaux-Arts de Montpellier (ESBA), where I had the opportunity to experiment and meet great artists.
Since that time, I have participated in numerous collective exhibitions both in France and abroad. I have also showcased my installations, drawings, and various forms of artistic expression at art fairs. 
What was the early motivation to express your creativity through ceramics?
Actually, it was something that happened by chance. In 2020, during the lockdown period of the pandemic, most of the Art exhibitions I was supposed to be part of got cancelled. At that time, I was sharing a studio with a couple of ceramists. This is when I started pottery, inspired by their craft. I first took it as a hobby and quickly realised I really liked the material and the creativity it allows. You can say I then embarked on an extensive exploration of ceramic art! This new artistic direction has enabled me to delve into the intersection between the functionality of everyday objects and the conversations they can initiate with contemporary art, design, and the different world cultures. In combining aesthetic inspiration with functional design, I found profound gratification in the objects that surround us. 
How did INI CERAMIQUE come about?
In about a year after I started doing ceramics, I felt the will to make it my main activity. I got good feedback from my friends and some people started to be interested in purchasing my work. I thought it was the right time to focus completely on this new way of expressing myself. I loved the creativity clay offered me and I thought it would be so exciting to follow that path!
You beautifully mentioned on your website that "Through the development of collections built around a minimalist wabi-sabi aesthetic, her creations generate a dialogue between craftsmanship, art, and nature." Can you share your thoughts on why these references are so important to you?
I would like my pieces to become objects that convey narratives, emotions, and contemplation. I explore and experiment a lot and constantly research on forms, textures, and colours. In that sense, many elements can inspire me and can be relevant.
Since I studied art before launching INI CERAMIQUE, a lot of my inspirations came from the Art world. As an example, inspired by the works of the painting artist Giorgio Morandi, I wanted to reinterpret and design these vases with my own feeling. Also, the Greek inspired models come from the will to bring more diversity to INI CERAMIQUE’s collection by introducing vases with unique shapes and illustrations, hoping to offer the user with greater choices and enjoyment. These items draw their design inspiration from the patterns and intricate forms found in the heritage of traditional Greek vases.
Also, even though I believe that nature doesn't directly inspire my work, a good environment certainly motivates my creation, making life richer. The energy of nature and the current environment may have an indirect influence on my work as a byproduct.
Overall, my inspirations come from different elements which are somehow connected. Mostly Art, the mix of international cultures, contemporary and traditional techniques and aesthetics. 
My ambition lies in evoking emotions, sparking inquiries, and nurturing a renewed appreciation for the beauty intrinsic to our everyday lives.
Could you guide us through your creative process and share how important experimentation and becoming less attached to the final result of a piece is?
It typically begins with a broad concept or theme. I then create numerous sketches inspired by that initial idea. I prefer to remain open-minded and embrace the possibility that the design may evolve in unexpected directions, even if it diverges from the original intent. Eventually, I produce an initial prototype, which may spawn several iterations depending on my satisfaction with the outcome!
What and who inspires you?
As I explained earlier, many different aspects of life inspire me:  Art, international cultures, nature, design, contemporary and traditional techniques and aesthetics.
When it comes to the tactile aspect of your work and its connection with your body, how does the hands-on nature impact your overall happiness and well-being?
Since I was a child, I have been drawn to manual activities. There's a wonderful sensation in working with your hands on a project, transforming raw materials into something tangible. Working with natural materials like clay is especially gratifying. I admire its plasticity and the creative possibilities it presents. Additionally, the deliberate pace of the process, which requires respecting drying periods, firings, and so on, provides a calming effect and allows for adjusting one's rhythm to a more balanced temporality.
Where do you think the biggest potential to preserve important local crafts in the contemporary context lies?
It probably has something to do with the pace of our daily lives. Everything moves so quickly, and we are surrounded by constant information and immediacy. I believe that since the pandemic, people are seeking a more stable and less hectic lifestyle. Perhaps it doesn't make much sense to continue consuming industrial products that are quickly made and discarded. It's more fulfilling to choose crafts that you will cherish and that will accompany you for many years.
What upcoming projects make you excited right now?
I am planning on releasing a new kind of product! Something more functional, but yet still decorative. It’s really exciting to explore new designs and new objects!
Where and how can people engage more with your work?
I would say mainly on my Instagram and on my website. These are the two platforms where I share all of my work. Then, depending on where you live, there should be a nearby shop that showcases my ceramics!
Questions by Anca Adochitei from Crafters of Today