French ceramicist Karen Swami's work has garnered the steady appreciation of international critics and collectors for its elegant simplicity and textured skins. Her nom d’artiste “Swami” is a phonetic adaptation of her maiden name, Souhami, and refers to a spiritual or religious teacher in Sanskrit. As for the inspirations behind her body of work, they range from ancient Egyptian Nagada vases to Japanese ceramic traditions to the work of her contemporary peers including Alev Ebüzziya Siesbye and Magdalene Odundo among others.
Working between Paris and Brittany, Swami has been drawn to the tactile and visual experience of clay since her early childhood. It was not until 2009 that she chose to dedicate her life to mastering ceramic techniques. In 2010 Swami received her certificate of professional competence in pottery. As she pursues her study of the material through ongoing experimentations at her studio, the artist has since developed an extensive body of work involving various time-honored techniques picked up from ceramic traditions from around the world. Swami embraces the beautiful and poetic imperfections resulting from controlled incidents and weaknesses inherent to the materials. Her work is deeply informed by the natural characteristics of the Earth; from the surface down to its deeper stratus. Swami mimics the parched, cracked and fractured textures found in nature, enabling and emphasizing injured, layered surfaces.
The particularity of her work results from the convergence of time-honored techniques from different parts of the world; the cobalt blue or celadon-green glazes reveal deep layers of nuanced colors and the simple shapes of her works are reminiscent of Asian and Hellenistic ceramics dating back to the ancient dynasties. To create her unique finish, Swami burnishes each piece with an agate stone, they are then bisque-fired, smoked, waxed, then re-worked often with Urushi lacquer and pure gold in the traditional Japanese Kintsugi technique.