Udumbara Ceramics

Udumbara turns wild clay from Finnish nature to exquisite tableware.

Text Sari Peltonen

Photos Udumbara & TRE

Eva Spoof has been working with ceramics for over 20 years, and throws all her Udumbara designs by hand on a potter’s wheel in her studio in Kallio, Helsinki. Each piece is unique, and while design made in Helsinki is already special on its own right, what makes Udumbara ceramics even more unique is the material.

Instead of industrial mixes or foreign concoctions, all Spoof’s pieces are made from wild, natural clay from the small village of Kultela in Somero, southwestern Finland.

Spoof first got his hands dirty with wild clay when attending a ceramics seminar at Kultelan Tiilitehdas brick factory some 17 years ago. She was hooked immediately, and started to experiment with the material.

Wild clay is more complicated to handle than its industrially mixed counterpart, requiring both skill and patience – so much so that it is rarely used in ceramics production anymore. The process takes a lot longer, too, as the items are left to stand for up to months prior to burning, a phase that is particularly hairy with wild clay.

The material is ecological, as it does not require long and complicated processing and is burned in low temperatures.

Spoof’s passion was tested in 2004-2006, when she spent several months working in Dingshu, China. “After having seen the massive scale of ceramics production in China, I felt making it in Finland was rather useless. I was seriously contemplating a change of career,” she says.

Thankfully, she pressed on. Instead of even trying to take on the impossible fight against the mass production, she turned the other way and started to work with wild clay solely.

“With this choice of material, I want to underline the value of local, natural wild clay,” Spoof says.

Since then, others have taken note, too, and Udumbara has produced items for the Finnish fashion label Samuji’s home collection, among others.

The beautiful deep terracotta colored clay of the Udumbara objects has a warm, earthly, grounded character and an interesting, rich feel under the fingers. It is homely and alive when juxtaposed with the clean, minimalist, almost cold lines of glazed, bleached, bright white industrially produced ceramics.

Eva Spoof’s creations are at once both quintessentially Finnish and delightfully fresh.

Surprisingly, the inspiration behind Udumbara is not just local:

“I lived in Massachusetts, US when I was young and got to know Shaker architecture and their functional, beautiful everyday objects. I’ve kept their philosophy as a role model for my own small scale production,” Spoof says.

She has also drawn inspiration by her time in China and the Chinese tea ceremony. And while using beautiful, well made everyday objects certainly impacts our quality of life, tea actually also tastes better from a wild clay cup.

“Thanks to the porous nature and rich mineral content of the clay, tea brewed in a wild clay pot develops a richer flavor.”

Friends of coffee need not worry either, as the bowls are equally perfect for long Sunday mornings with a cup of café au lait and the newspaper. Or use them for cozy breakfasts in candle light in the autumn ahead (clay keeps warmth so it’s perfect for porridges), for serving soups or to mix a matcha latte.

The bigger bowls are practical and beautiful in equal amounts for storing fruit, eggs, serving side dishes or baking. All Udumbara items are oven and dishwasher proof, so you can use the same bowl to prepare, cook and store your dish – just be careful of extreme changes in temperature.

The smaller cups are perfect to plant small succulents, and TRE also stocks bigger flower pots especially made for house plants. The reddish colour of wild clay underlines the greenery of the plants.

When setting a table, combine Udumbara items with white, off-white and black items – or try mixing wild clay with accessories made from copper, wooden accessories or glass for a fresh mix of materials and textures.

Hand made Udumbara cups, bowls and flower pots starting at 26€ from TRE