For the latest in our series introducing the Design District community, we talk to our neighbourhood’s first resident ceramicist, Mano Kalamenios.

Manos Kalamenios’ beautiful and innovative designs can be found in restaurants and institutions around the world, including Michelin-starred Lima and Tate Modern. With over a decade’s worth of experience to share, the award-winning ceramicist has something very special in mind for Design District: a ‘ceramics multi-space,’ where members of the community can learn new skills and realise their clay-based ambitions. Manos describes himself as a ‘ceramic alchemist,’ so we can’t wait to see what magic he has in store for us in his new studio in building A4, designed by David Kohn Architects.

Design District (DD): Hello Manos, welcome to the neighbourhood — we’re very excited to have our first ceramics studio at Design District. Could you tell us a bit about how you  got started?

Manos Kalamenios (MK): I originally trained as a chef back in Greece which eventually brought me to London, working at Four Seasons Canary Wharf (little did I know then that 16 years later I’d be based across the river at Design District!). I felt that something was missing and decided to relocate to the Isle of Man to focus on my creative side. At university there I spent most of my time in the ceramics studio — I had to be kicked out most nights as they needed to lock the doors!

By the time I graduated from the Royal College of Art in Ceramics and Glass I realised that I really wanted to open my own studio and founded Made by Manos.

DD: One of the biggest challenges of working in the creative industries can be finding the support you need. What kind of support do you wish you’d had more of starting out?

MK: I believe it is not what you know but who you know. There’s this quote: ‘If you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day. If you teach a man to fish, you feed him for a lifetime.’ A grant will help you get a kiln but if you don’t have the right outlet and aren’t introduced to people who can take you further, all you have is a kiln.

DD: Making ceramics requires a lot of space and expensive equipment. Has this ever been an obstacle?

MK: It was at the beginning and sometimes still is, but I always try to improvise. I started small and have grown Made by Manos slowly and steadily. I had to do it all by myself and still do — no financial support or grants. My first studio had no windows or running water but I didn’t give up or let it affect me or my work. As long as I could make, I was happy. 

DD: What have you found to be some of the positives and negatives of living and working in London as a craftsperson?

MK:  I love London. It feels like home even though I wasn’t born here. Wherever you turn you’ll find something that makes you feel lucky to live in this amazing city. However, it is very expensive and it’s difficult to find a space that inspires you to create. 

DD: What would you describe as having been the highlight of your career to date?

MK: Oh, I have so many but some will stay with me forever. My first was when I got an email the day before my convocation at the RCA from Sir James Dyson, telling me how much he liked my work and offering me a commission. It didn’t sink in at first, but then I got to meet him at the ceremony — a truly amazing and humble person who I will never forget. 

Recently I had the chance to have an exhibition at an archaeological museum in Greece. Having your work exhibited within a museum is one thing, but sharing a space in a glass cabinet alongside artefacts that are over two millennia old is something else!

DD: Which ceramicists and creatives inspire you?

MK: My idol is Pieter Stockmans, his work is ethereal and I was very privileged to sit with him at my desk at the RCA for a tutorial. I also admire Thomas Heatherwick, a true genius of a man.

DD: What advice would you give to other creatives starting out in the industry?

MK: Never give up. Dream big — if your dreams don’t scare you they are not big enough. But most of all when you feel down, think about where you are and what you have. Many are still dreaming of achieving this. You’ve come a long way.

DD: Why have you chosen Design District for your new studio?

MK: I wanted to be part of something big and when I saw the studio I felt something greater —  a place that would give me more visibility and opportunities. This is more than just a studio, I see it as a ceramics multi-space. 

DD: Tell us about your plans to make your studio facilities available to other Design District tenants and Bureau members.

MK: I’m a great believer in collaboration and look forward to working with Design District’s community. After fifteen years I feel it is time to give back. Things like kilns and diamond polishers aren’t easily accessible, so I want to make these available to everyone. My new motto is ‘if you can’t find what you want, come in and make it!’

Alongside specialist and beginner workshops, I’ll be offering something unique: collaborative workshops consisting of two totally different disciplines coming together under one roof.

DD: How can people find out more about Made by Manos?

MK: I try to post new things daily on Instagram, when life allows. But online only shows a fraction, so you need to come down to Design District and visit my new studio — you won’t be disappointed!