In a sun-soaked Toronto studio, where shadows dance and crawl across white wooden shelves stocked with handmade ceramics, Shayna Stevenson works away on creating her latest works. With swipes of pastels and brushstrokes of neutrals, no two pieces are alike, a reflection of a new creative streak or the settling of inspiration on a natural canvas. Shayna's work has been around Scout for the long haul and after seeing each piece come to life as it settles down on our shelves, it's not hard to see why. Created with intent for conscious living, Shayna Stevenson's works are a Scout essential. Here, we catch up with the maker behind this magic in the first of our new Five in Five series, featuring five questions answered by a maker in five minutes.
Erin: Let’s start from the beginning. What brought you here? What inspired you to take up ceramics?
Shayna: I wanted to try pottery since I was a kid, but never had the opportunity. Instead, I did other artistic things like dance, drama, creative writing, and photography. It wasn’t until I found out about an adult education class through TDSB that I finally tried it out, and I loved it immediately. I enjoy the feeling of putting on an apron and making a mess, and once I got started I had more ideas than time to make them so I just kept going. I’m mainly self-taught, but I think for most ceramicists there is always something to learn, and I’m really drawn to that aspect of it, too.
E: Self-employment is tough but even more so when you’re competing with big industry players. What do you wish everyone knew about handmade, challenges or strengths?
S: This job only works if you have a tonne of self-motivation because there’s so much room for procrastination and self-doubt, and that can make it hard to keep showing up to the studio. This is especially true when you see big shops that are carrying work that is similar to yours, but at a fraction of the price. There are definitely days when I’m frustrated and am tempted to avoid going in, and I do have that flexibility, but at the same time, if I don’t show up all of those things that are stressing me out will just be waiting for me the next day.
E: You’ve been creating ceramics since 2011 and Scout’s the same age! Over the years, we’ve changed a lot but we’ve got some roots we stick to that have grown even stronger. How would you say you and your work have changed since 2011? What didn’t work and what is still at the heart of your designs?
S: My favourite and lasting work has always been the items that have a good balance between being simple, but special and unique. It can be difficult, and when I’m drawing or trying something new I spend a lot of time deciding if what I’m developing is missing something or has too much of something. I’m constantly torn between colour and neutrals, which I used to find frustrating, but I embrace it now. In terms of inspiration, travel is something I love, and has always been the greatest influence on my work.
E: You’re an avid reader (we were peeping your reading list in your Instagram highlights). What’s your current top book club suggestion?
S: The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai has been one of my favourite reads this year. It will break your heart, but you’ll be better for it.
E: We like seeing those WIP posts and new creations you’re testing out on your travels. What’s your favourite part about a work in progress?
S: When I have an idea in my head and it works out just as I had envisioned it is the best feeling. Most of what I make starts out as something that I would like for myself, so it’s extra magical when I share it online and people are enthusiastic about it, too.
Find Shayna's work online at shaynastevenson.com, or follow Shayna for some sneak peeks at new products, works in progress, and studio shots @shaynastevenson. Shayna's bowls, tumblers, mugs, and planters are currently stocked at our Roncesvalles location, and select products are occasionally available in our online shop. As always, we suggest calling ahead if you're travelling a distance to make sure we have what you're looking for in stock.
Photo credits: All photos copyright Shayna Stevenson, 2019