White Studio, nestled up in the hills of old Tbilisi, Georgia, is a veritable island of colourful ceramics. The showroom and basement workshop came into being when two artist friends – Nato Eristavi and Nino Kambarashvili – decided to turn what they loved doing most into a business opportunity. The EBRD and its donors helped structure their business to take it to the next level.
Back in 2015, their adventure took off with a delayed kiln delivery essential for turning clay into ceramics and colourful decorations. During the four-month wait, the creative duo improvised with white clay and ended up producing huge amounts of white pottery.
Once the kiln arrived, Nato recalls that it was unrealistic to paint everything; instead, they hosted a white exhibition, quickly gaining acclaim and the motivation to go forward with their business. Years passed and White Studio is now one of the most colourful spots in the city.
Bringing colours to life
‘’Our focus is on white clay – a mixture of different Georgian materials; we often call it white porcelain because of its similar qualities such as transparency, elasticity and the ability to be fired at a high temperature. We aimed at reviving this art and showing that this material can be used for interior, exterior, monumental art and landscape design. We feel a responsibility to showcase it in the best possible light,’’ says Nato.
The studio also uses red clay to produce dinnerware, lamps, and interior design items – now rich in colour thanks to the kiln.
The EBRD’s Women in Business programme funded by the European Union, Sweden, and the EBRD Small Business Impact Fund* helped the two artists bring their business to a new level. The EBRD matched the company with a team of consultants responsible for designing a strategy plan – a blueprint on how to operate and achieve profitability.
‘’It gave us perspective; now we can more clearly see the picture. Prior to the consultants, we knew what our challenges were instinctively; now we know what to do. It gives us the confidence to grow our business not only in Georgia, but also abroad,’’ says Nino.
With a wide-ranging scope, the business plan outlined how to attain optimum market share, establish a pricing strategy and attract new customers. The latter is already working. Apart from corporate orders, White Studio prepared a signature dinnerware set for the Georgian Presidential Palace. Each bespoke plate features artsy characters from the Georgian alphabet.
The therapy of making art
‘’Can you imagine how pleasant it is to invite guests and offer them food you prepared served on plates you made? Pottery and ceramic making have well-known therapeutic benefits,’’ says Nato.
With this in mind and a desire to popularise Georgian ceramics further, Nato and Nino decided to open the doors to the magical chamber of ceramic making to all. Anyone interested in the field can take master classes and get themselves acquainted with the creative process.
Indeed, making ceramics is a unique experience shared by a group of artists: one small pot undergoes a lengthy process of wheel throwing, trimming, bisque firing, drying and decorating then glaze firing once again.
During the coronavirus lockdown in Georgia, White Studio continued to connect with loyal clients remotely, offering to deliver its colourful ceramics through an online shop. As restrictions gradually eased, White Studio re-opened its doors, aiming to brighten up its customers’ days once more.
*The EBRD Small Business Impact Fund contributors are Italy, Japan, Korea, Luxembourg, Sweden, Switzerland, Taipei China and the USA.
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