Below, the founder of the ceramic studio ATMA, Marie Martin, gives us insight into the start of ATMA and her creative ceramic processes.
Could you tell us more about your story and how you got to the place where you are now?
To quickly present myself: I am French, married to a Spanish husband, mother of three kids all born in China, owner of a business started in the US and living in Spain right now.
The first time I touched clay I was about nine or ten years old. I received a ceramic wheel toy for Christmas. I loved it immediately. Unfortunately, my mom didn’t like the mess it was creating, so I could rarely use it. But the feeling of touching clay stayed in me. And it was only about fifteen years later that I came back to it. Recently married, my husband and I moved to China (Shenzhen) for work. My first move was to register for a Mandarin class, my second was to find a ceramic studio! Which wasn’t that easy since the industry was omnipresent and leaving little space for craftsmanship. I finally found one that was in the middle of a typical Chinese park. It was amazing: taichi, chigong, traditional instruments mixed with tango and pop dances, all in the same place, every day! I spent as many hours as I could (juggling with work, a growing family and trips back to Europe) and learned the importance of the process as much as the result.
After eight years in China, we moved to San Francisco. I joined a few different ceramic studios and loved the general dynamic. It was all about experimenting and looking for your own voice. It felt like free creativity was really esteemed. Discovering your dislikes were as important as discovering your likes. I started to mix materials and finally came up with the first concept that I really identified with: a planter made of ceramic and cotton rope, with a minimalist design but one-of-a-kind style. A mix of French classicism with an ethnic feel. I still make these planters, named Cocoons. I started to sell them under the brand Atelier Martin in 2016. I changed it to ATMA when I moved to Spain a couple of years later.
Where do you find inspiration regarding color and form? How would you define the style of your work and how did it develop?
I’ve always wanted to create ceramics that participate in a calm atmosphere at home. As a mother of three and solopreneur, I spend most of my time running all over! So, when I take a break and sit down for a coffee, I like to have a nice interior decoration that feels like a peaceful oasis where I can recharge my battery. I guess that’s why in my work lines are always minimalist and colors are a variation of whites, light grays, and blacks. Colors like earthy pinks, oranges or greens are introduced in the stitching details.
When I started ceramic, I almost immediately introduced writing with clay, either on the sides of mixing bowls or underneath plates as secret messages. Over the years, I have written a lot of family recipes sent by customers and gifted to one of their family members. I enjoy doing these ceramics. Not only because I find the aesthetic very nice but mostly because those Mixing bowls matter a lot to the person who gives and the one who receives. I am a nostalgic person (I can’t deny it!) so transmission and memory of good times are very important to me.
What is on your mind when you are shaping the object?
The magic of working with clay is the ability to have nothing in mind. My hands take control and my mind can relax. It is very soothing. When I start a new collection, I let the shapes come out on their own.
It’s only after, once the ceramic is slowly drying, that I decide the kind of detail I will add to it. Normally it doesn’t take long. I listen to a lot of podcasts and read a lot about very different themes. I always have thoughts in mind that I try to express with my work.
Do you have a dream project that you would love to accomplish someday?
I already have my dream! Working doing something I love. My goal is to go further into memory and transmission. This is a slow process. I’ve already had new projects around it and I can’t wait to discover the next ones to come.
Do you have any advice for emerging creatives?
Try to know who you are and who you’re not. Living abroad helped me figure it out. But I guess time is the best ally.
Tell us a little more about your partnership with Cedar and Myrrh, could you walk us through the creation process of the collection?
When Misun contacted me, she explained to me the type of item she wanted, which was an incense holder with natural style. I did some samples and I remember I sent a picture of three different glazes for her to choose. I had never placed them together up until that day and Misun went for the three of them!
I realized how well they combined together. It was one of those situations where an outside eye helps so much and I am really grateful for that.
Cedar and Myrrh is built around the practice of rituals, for your mind, body and soul. (Burning Rituals, Wellness Rituals, Aromatherapy rituals...)
What ritual do you practice on a regular basis?
For many years I did not take much care of myself. I was studying, working, becoming a mother, moving from one country to another. I had plans I wanted to achieve and my psychological health was secondary. When we moved to Spain, settling down the whole family and my business was fun as well as difficult both physically and emotionally. My husband and I realized we needed to reconnect to nature. We made sure to go for long walks often which really helped me feel better. I also resumed yoga a few times a week. It relieves the pain I get from work and forces me to slow down and pause. Living a slow life is very difficult for me but making time for a pause, even for ten minutes, brings so many benefits to my life.
To learn more about Marie and ATMA, follow her on Instagram : @atmaceramics
Shop the ATMAT x Cedar and Myrrh collection :
Incense plates :
Smudging Bowls :