Eva Spoof

Orange wild clay planter with a plant

In 2016 our paths crossed with Finnish ceramist Eva in Paris and since then we have been following her world of soulful ceramics. We've put together a short conversation about her journey to pottery, recycling and what makes Finns happy. Enjoy the reading and if you are in Helsinki, make sure to pop by from her cozy studio.

UDUMBARA pottery (est. 1994) products are made by ceramic artist Eva Spoof from wild, natural clay from the small village of Kultela in Somero, Southwestern Finland. Udumbara creates sustainable, high-quality solar energy powered wild clay ceramics. Address: UDUMBARA, Kaarlenkatu 15, Helsinki.

Let's go back to the beginning - how and when did you fall in love with pottery?

My mother was working as a guide at Arabia porcelain factory. When I was a child we visited the Art department together and we admired all the artists there. Once we even met with Kauko Rajala, the master potter, who showed me some wheel work. I believe that this was the "falling in love with pottery" moment for me.

A woman making pottery in her studio

What is the meaning behind Udumbara? From where comes this word choice?

Well, yes it is an entirely "far-fetched" name for a Finnish pottery studio. UDUMBARA comes from Buddhism, plainly it means “ No sorrow” or "an auspicious flower from heaven" in Sanskrit. I was practicing Buddhism when I started the pottery in 1994. The name is a memory for my quest to live an authentic life. Finding the way for true self is not easy - Buddhism helped me to find mine and now I understand that there are many ways to reach your destination.

A chair with an orange plant pot

You have lived and also worked in China. How has this experience influenced your creation?

Inventing the bag-in-box wine cooler took me to China, where I worked in a ceramic project during 2004 - 2006. It was really an eye-opening experience - especially my time in the world famous teaware town Yixing, Dingshu. There I got my first introduction to Gong Fu tea and iron-rich teaware, where’s previously I was only familiar with Japanese tea traditions. Staying in Yixing, a town with 2000 year history in pottery, made me also understand that there is overproduction of pottery in the world and that I need to change my practices.

You are working with local Finnish clay, is its origin important to you?

1999 I had chance to attend Somero II International Ceramic seminar in Kultela Brick Factory and got to know Arvo Kankare, the owner and master of the factory. Back then I didn’t have any experience with local wild clay. Under Arvo's guidance, I started making pottery out of it. Instantly I fell in love with this raw earthy material and realized that (at least to my knowledge) no one was using local Finnish clay to make flower pots. Soon after I carried on with tea bowls. In a matter of fact, tea brewed in an iron-rich clay ware develops a richer flavour - something I had learned in Yixing.

Finnish natural clay is warm, homely and above all an ecological choice, because as a natural raw material it does not require complex processing and can be fired at a low temperature.

A shelve with tea bowls and plant pots

We know that you re-use materials quite a lot (recycling boxes, using old plates for the plant pots, etc.). How did you start up-cycling?

While working at the airport I noticed that the travellers leave behind so much “good material”: beautiful paper bags and boxes. It was my friend who came up with the idea and suggested me to re-use them. Now, my colleagues and friends at the airport collect the bags and boxes for me. Before using, I decorate them with an unique sticker saying “This is an Udumbara recycled package”. My customers like the recycled packaging very much and we have had a lot of fun in creating them. Some of my teaware boxes have been up-cycled by artist Eeva Louhio and Maija Toropainen. You should see how stunning they are!

Finland was recently elected happiest country in the world. Do you agree? What makes the Finnish people so happy?

I don't know about that. What is positive in Nordic Countries, is gender equality and moderation in income inequality. Perhaps it is that, but I believe that all of us are connected and we cannot live truly a happy life if we don’t care about others. Another really nice thing that I appreciate in the Nordic countries is "freedom to roam" in nature, access public or privately owned land, lakes, and rivers as long as you don't exploit them.
But a comparison is not good in general. "If you compare yourself to others, you may become vain and bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself." - Max Ehrmann´s thought. Comparison and blaming others is maybe behind the hate in the world right now.

A clay pot drying on the shelve

Nature is something Finns are really close with - have you ever considered to pack your life and move to the countryside?

No, not really - I like the neighbourhood. Helsinki is quite a green city, with 1200 km bicycle ways, wild central park and lovely coastal bike trails. I like that. Sometimes I dream about a garden, but really, there is no time for it. I do have my own "commercial garden" in the back window of my studio, where I get some herbs, chilli, and tomatoes (hopefully).

Studio window display with clay sculptures

Photos: Ahto Sooaru
Location: UDUMBARA studio in Helsinki