For our first Bearleader story it was serendipitous that I would think to visit Asya Palatova, the creator of Gleena Ceramics. I worked with Asya for many years in her former life as an art director for Martha Stewart, and as coincidence would have it, our last lunch meeting in the West Village some years ago was almost at the moment she set off on a new career path.
Asya doesn’t remember the details, but it stuck in my memory that on that day she had received her letter of acceptance from the prestigious Rhode Island School of Design. And now, after completing her MFA with a concentration in Ceramics in 2004, she is well established in her new business, Gleena Ceramics.
Being at the start of my own creative endeavor, it seemed a good omen to kick it all off with a visit to Asya. So with ideas of “turning new pages”, “metamorphosis”, and “forks in the road” swirling in my head, I rented a car and drove from New York City to Providence, Rhode Island, to see her work and have a chat.
I was familiar with Asya’s new work only from looking at it online. I knew that the work was beautiful, but was curious to see how it felt in person. I remember her old desk space when she worked as an Art Director: always with nice collections of things arranged just so, and her wonderful collages. Looking around her new studio I began to understand the arc of her work.
The “Gleena” of Gleena Ceramics is the Russian word for clay.
The work is tender and robust at the same time. It feels organic. I felt compelled to reach out and touch the objects. When she shared memories of her family’s dacha, especially the gardens, I began to understand how those early impressions have found their way into the shapes of mugs, plates and bowls.
Gleena means clay in Russian. Without knowing the meaning, it sounded like it might be a woman’s name. But hearing Asya talk about her influences, the name fits the work in both sound and meaning. The designs are quite feminine and the final products wonderfully imperfect – it’s the way the bowl curves unexpectedly that makes a seemingly uniform product so intriguing.
Asya was kind enough to give me one of her rose-colored bowls, with a swallow in flight printed on the inside. It’s now part of my daily routine. Every morning I look forward to eating my breakfast from that beautiful bowl, and while I do, it makes me think, “Where will I fly today?” (Of course, in my case, “fly” is more likely “cycle”, and since I’m here in London, “where” is usually across Westminster Bridge.)
I asked Asya to show me around her local haunts. I think people that make things are inspired by their surroundings, so I took pictures as she pointed out a doorway and a garden, things that interested her for one reason or another: shapes and colors in her environment that otherwise might go unnoticed. I could see how they were integral to her designs.
Back in the studio Asya empties her latest firing from the kiln. The forms are strikingly modern. Her colors are subtle: pastel pinks, greens, and blues. They could be old fashioned, but in combination with her forms, they turn modern. I am particularly fond of the pink. Hard to describe, but Asya’s Pink Rose glaze feels fresh and new.
We spent two days together and I promised to be back in the winter for another visit. I am looking forward to seeing what’s developed, and to further exploring this part of the world.
Planning a visit to Gleena’s studio? Here is the current weather and what to expect for the next few days.47°clear97% humiditywind: 11mph SWH 71 • L 4568°Fri73°Sat72°Sun73°Mon70°TueWeather from Yahoo!