For ceramicist Lauren Strybos, working with clay is a full-body experience. When she’s at the pottery wheel, she works by feel; in fact, she can do it with her eyes closed.
“Once you start practicing more on the wheel, you just get muscle memory,” she says via video from her home in Calgary. “When I go into the studio and I’m feeling off, I find it a lot harder to centre; pieces will break apart or go a little bit wobbly. Because you kind of have to be centred yourself while you’re centring the clay.”
This sensory approach lends itself to her ceramic creations, which feature organic shapes, nature imagery, and neutral tones. Under the moniker From Tree to Sea, Strybos turns clay into Instagram-friendly mugs, vases, and planters that highlight the earthy beauty of their material.
Nature has been an important part of her life for a long time. Strybos actually went to school for environmental conservation, and worked for years as an endangered species biologist in Toronto. But she was always drawn to art in one form or another, tinkering with her creative abilities even as a child. “When I was a kid, I used to make little figurines out of polymer clay,” she recalls. “I was always sculpting and moulding things.”
Still, it was on something of a whim that she decided to take a pottery class one day, going with her aunt to a studio that happened to be in her neighbourhood. But she very quickly fell in love with it, going back again and again to perfect her skills. And after working in wildlife conservation for four years, Strybos decided to quit her job, drive across Canada, and eventually settle in Calgary. There she was able to put all her energy into her pottery, which is now her sole focus.
“It’s been awesome, especially doing it full-time. Being able to pour my whole heart and soul every day into it has been a game-changer,” she reflects. And it’s working: her most recent product drop had over 100 pieces in it, and it sold out online in 15 minutes.
There’s something truly special about a handmade object: the love, the care, the attention, the sheer time it takes to make. Whether it’s a vase in the shape of a cloud (inspired by the skylight in her bedroom) or a mug painted with cheerful daisies, From Tree to Sea pays homage to the natural world in its soft curves and playful speckles. There’s also a healthy dose of whimsy in these pieces—the wilderness is its own kind of magic, after all.