It’s not every day that high fashion finds its collaborative partner in small, independent ceramics studios, but that’s exactly what’s happening here in Budapest, and right in the city centre.
Nanushka is an exquisite modern fashion label, founded by the Hungarian designer Sandra Sandor in 2006, gracing the likes of Vogue, Bergdorf Goodman and the New York Fashion Week. Noha Studios, by contrast, is a home-grown and organic workshop-studio, begun by local potter Natália Nemes 14 years ago and catering to a much different lifestyle.
“Noha Studios has many, many workshops,” says Natália. “Pottery, yoga, sports, film, drama, painting, woodworking, dance… we even have an escape room, although that’s run by an independent company." But it was Natália’s pottery workshop which attracted Sandra, who attended as a student. “She started to learn from me,” says Natália, “and she really liked it, so she got the idea that we could work together."
Natália works in various pottery techniques, including the ancient Japanese practice of raku. This involves removing the pieces while still red-hot from the kiln – at 1,000 degrees centigrade – and placing them in sawdust, or another flammable material. In a split second, the piece goes through a process known as reduction, and creates fantastical colours and patterns in the glaze. No two pieces are ever the same. “This technique,” says the artist, “draws together all the elements: water, fire, earth and air. The clay is the earth, the water is used to shape the clay, the air dries the clay, and the kiln provides the fire. In this way, all four are inside the ceramics, that’s what makes it so fantastic."
Together, Natália and Sandra combined their brands to form Nanoha, creating a range of decorative vases, bowls and coffee cups which blur the lines between Sandra’s designs and Natália’s pottery. “She brings in the new collections,” explains Natália, “and I draw inspiration from the colours, and the drape of the fabric. I made this idea that the cups will have the shape of the dress, the same dynamic of life as the dress." She demonstrates on her potter’s wheel. “On the wheel, there’s a special movement, so I’m moving with the material, I’m breathing with it, and that’s how I create the shapes.”
One piece may involve five colours of glaze or more, and sometimes it goes back to the kiln four or five times over, to make it more intense. The result is stunning: light sunset pinks overlapping pumpkin oranges, teal, burgundy, eggy white and mint. The gentle undulations of the cup shape feel organic and nuanced.
Of course, the cups are available for purchase behind the espresso bar in Nanushka’s downtown location, but like everything else in the designer brand, it won’t come cheap. One espresso cups will cost you a 14,000 forints, and 63,000 for a large vase.
Another project between the two artists is a line of ceramic buttons. “Plastic buttons are not so good,” says Natália, “and they are bad for the environment. So we are creating ceramic buttons to go on to the dresses." And the buttons have a story of their own. “I started making this studio out in Terény,” explains Natália, “and as I was building a house, I started to meet people there. There were many old women who needed work but couldn’t find work, and so they are the ones who create the buttons.” The story of the button ladies can be read here.
More collaborations are expected for the future. “We are always evolving,” says Natália.