Making Matters with Zani from @theclaybarn


As a slow fashion label with a focus on ethically and sustainably handcrafted garments, we are certainly lovers of slow, handmade creations! There is something so special about creating something with our own two hands. Taking the time to focus on attention to detail, and the sense of accomplishment that comes with it. Creating with our hands provides a level of freedom to personalise and connect with our creations, making them truly unique. It is this love for creativity that propelled Zani Mcennally to delve into the art of ceramics and make a living out of doing what she loves. We take a moment of inspiration with Zani as she shares with us her love for the medium and creating in the spirit of slowing down.

What led you into the beautiful art of ceramics?

After relocating to Byron Bay in 2003 from Sydney where I had sold my family business I was looking for something creative to pursue. I enrolled in a ten day course at Mullumbimby Drill Hall which explored life drawing, painting and sculpture. It was the first time I had played with clay, the teacher encouraged me to apply for the Bachelor of Visual Arts degree at Southern Cross University in Lismore. I applied and was accepted. 

In that first semester we worked in all of the mediums being painting, printmaking, sculpture and ceramics. I had originally thought I’d pursue painting, however after working in the ceramics studio I fell in love with the medium and decided to focus on ceramics for my degree. So after 7 years at SCU I graduated with a BVA majoring in ceramics and have never looked back.



Tell us about @theclaybarn & @cacthaus , what are the offerings you provide?

The Clay Barn was born 6 years ago, after many years of making my work and supplying to local regional art galleries I started to run pottery workshops. When I found my property in Bangalow there was a huge shed that I converted into a working pottery studio. 

The Clay Barn provides a space for the community to explore the medium of clay in a beautiful hinterland environment. Here we offer private and group workshops in wheel throwing and hand building. 

We also cater for larger corporate team building groups and run a regular Monday morning Social club, assisting all levels of potters from beginners to advanced clients. We also collaborate with other creatives providing unique workshops melding other arts including cooking, yoga and floristry.

The Clay Barn also works with restaurants, artists and private clients designing and making custom ranges.

Earlier this year I had the opportunity to open a retail space in Bangalow called The Cacthaus, my business partner owns Woods Cafe located two doors down from our shop and we stock indoor plants, ceramics, incense and more hand made local products. We also offer our space as a private dining room hosting groups from 6-12 people. Chef Sam Campbell, also owner of Woods Cafe, caters dinners that are a high-end fine dining experience in the gorgeous greenhouse environment of The Cacthaus. The Clay Barn has made a range of tableware specifically for the space which enhances the experience. 


What is your favourite thing about working with clay?

My favourite thing about working with clay is the joy of opening a glaze firing. Ceramics is a patience game, the final firing being the end result of many hours of work. I love the look on my clients faces when they see their finished work, the satisfaction that they have achieved to make something beautiful from a block of clay. Ceramic work grounds us and allows the mind to be still whilst creating. 

What do you feel playing with the art of clay can teach?

Clay teaches us to be patient and to release control of outcomes. The nature of clay is one that must be respected, learning the tolerance of each clay body and knowing the limits of the medium. Clay teaches us to release perfection, mastering clay is a never ending challenge.

What are some daily rituals you practise to upkeep a positive mindset?

My day starts early at 5am. This is my quiet time to turn kilns on and assess the studio for the day with a cup of tea. We have a gym at home where a personal trainer comes 4 days a week for group and private training sessions. I enjoy strength exercising. Training makes me feel better in body and mind. 

I remind myself of how lucky I am with the life I’ve created, supporting others in the pursuit of creativity and also making a living out of doing what I love.



What is your view on the value of creativity?

Creativity I believe gives us freedom to explore things that interest us, in creating something that interests us we allow ourselves freedom. As a potter I am deeply grateful that I have created a business that I can be creative on a daily basis. Watching and teaching others gives me great pleasure in seeing their happiness with their creations. 

What is your favourite Daughters of India design and why?

My absolute favourite DOI design is the Kyra midi dress in black. The fabric is so soft, comfortable and flowing. It can be dressed up or worn as a casual dress. I love all of the dresses that I have from DOI.



What are some sustainable practices you implement through your business? 

In my studio we recycle as much of the waste clay as possible which is then used to create new pieces. We also use eco-friendly packaging which helps to reduce the amount of plastic waste in our society.

What is some advice you would love to share with our readers?

Allow yourself the time to be creative, using our intuition to create allows us to evolve as humans. I encourage everyone no matter what age to have a go and enjoy the journey of being creative no matter what the outcome.


(Words by Ella Josephine Archer)