"I love that clay is imperfect. The beauty of it is in the imperfection."
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In the heart of Doha, a clay enthusiast is moulding a thriving community of potters. Reema Abu Hassan is the creative mind behind Clay Encounters, a space for experienced and novice potters to practise the art of pottery.
"The initial motivation was to revive the craft of pottery," explains Reema, who has spent countless hours shaping clay into cups, bowls, plates and other beautiful objects. "I wanted to preserve the craft and get people excited about pottery again," she explains.
Reema says that starting a creative business is not easy. "You have to operate from a place of passion and love for what you do," she says.
Descending from a family of entrepreneurs, Reema credits her grandpa as a constant source of inspiration and encouragement.
"I never thought of myself as an entrepreneur until my grandpa told me, you are an entrepreneur just like me," Reema warmly recalls.
'Beauty in imperfection'
Reema's fascination with clay began while studying architecture at university. "The thing that drew me to clay is the handmade quality and tactility that comes with it," "I love that clay is imperfect, and the beauty of it is in the imperfection," Reema told SCENES.
What started as Reema's personal studio soon became a hub for designers and creative types. Clay Encounters has two fully equipped facilities and a thriving membership program. The ceramics centre offers classes where aspiring potters can learn everything from wheel throwing to hand-building techniques.
"We try to motivate people so they can develop the basic skills of starting from a fresh bag of clay all the way to a fired and finished piece," says Reema.
'Heart of the studio'
"Over the years, we've had thousands of members. Right now, there are about a hundred. Our members are at the heart of the studio," Reema explains.
The studio is brimming with creativity, and members like 12-year-old Jenna say they find joy in the unpredictability of the material.
"My favourite thing about working with clay is that you don't really know how it's going to turn out until you see it at the end," explains Jenna.
Jannah goes to Clay Encounters with her younger sister, Kenzie. The two siblings often compete to see who can make the best pieces. Kenzie says, "The best thing about making pottery is that I can be free and do whatever I want."
Another young member, Oliver, delights in the squishy nature of clay.
"You can make your own objects, and it is fun to play with. I like how you carve it to make plates or bowls," says seven-year-old Oliver.
'It takes dedication.'
Patricia is a seasoned member who explained to SCENES that the primary challenge of working with clay is exercising patience. "It takes a lot of time to create anything. It takes a lot of time to learn the skills. It takes dedication."
Clay Encounters staff is a culturally diverse, all-female team of ten individuals representing five nationalities. Serine, a clay workshop instructor, says she enjoys meeting different studio members daily.
"It's really nice to see people come here and try their best. They express a lot of joy and happiness, and it makes me feel fulfilled. says Serine.
Patricia describes the ceramics community at Clay Encounters as a collaborative network of artists. "It's really a very uplifting environment. It's somewhere that I go to express myself and to be a part of a community that I know will be supportive," says Patricia.
'My happy place'
"I call it my happy place," says studio member Hayat. "When you come here, you feel very welcome, and you can do something you love."
Clay Encounters members speak highly of Reema and describe her as a kind, patient, and gentle soul. They praise her for establishing a business where they can express themselves. "She's welcoming and so nice and so humble. She is dedicated to her place of work," says Hayat.
'Teaching brings me joy'
In addition to her business, Reema is a professor at Virginia Commonwealth University in Qatar. "I teach in the Master of Fine Art and Design Studies program. Teaching is my passion, and I love to do it. Teaching brings me joy," she says.
Clay Encounters is a place where joy and learning go hand in hand. Reema's passion for teaching pottery has fostered a committed community of pottery lovers in Qatar. With her ceramic studio expanding, the founder hopes more people will be inspired to take up this ancient craft.