Humna Mustafa is an artist and ceramicist who has made her home in a small town called Hitchin, just outside of London. She and her husband and daughter share a comfortable, casual home which reflects the free-spirited nature of the residents.
Humna has been creating hand-made and hand-painted ceramics in her home studio and presenting collections for the last 15 years. Her work is not just creative but also meditative and during the Covid pandemic she started running online painting retreats. These are held every full moon for people across the globe as a healing experience. “I teach the Meditative Mandala Art inspired by nature and the divine energy.”
HomeLoveLifestyle caught up with Humna and spoke about her passion for pottery, home and family.
Where did you grow up?
My schooling took place in Abu Dhabi and after twelfth grade, I came back to Karachi for my Bachelors. After my graduation from Indus Valley School of Arts and Architecture, I got married and moved to Adelaide, Australia. In 2010, after a major life changing experience, I needed to be close to family and came to settle in the UK.
When was the love for the arts born?
My mother came from Hyderabad Dakkan in India and my father was from Kashmir, Sri Nagar. Food, stories, culture, religion, traditions, community and family were the main focus of my upbringing. The understanding of cultural and linguistic differences were all something I grew up with. Being born to a family of doctors, I too was expected to become one. But life had some exciting plans for me.
Have you studied ceramics?
I graduated from Indus Valley with honors in a Bachelors in Textile Design. During the foundation year, I found my love for sculpture and working with clay. But it was not an option then. So I did not study Art or Ceramics in college. It was something I learnt completely out of interest and I still feel I have long long way to evolve.
Is this a profession or a hobby?
Creating beauty, since I graduated from college, has always been a profession in my head and heart. It is something that keeps me going and helps me see and create a world that makes sense to my soul.
What draws you to ceramics?
The mess, the processes and the uncertainty of what will emerge. I can’t emphasise enough how much I enjoy and value the whole process of creating a vessel. From the first moment of touching the soft smooth clay to cradling it into its final stage and then sending it to a home where it belongs…
To me the journey of how a ceramic piece is created symbolises the journey of our soul in this realm.
Do you have your own kiln?
No. I have never owned a kiln as yet. Somehow there is always someone there to help me with my firing in the many countries I have lived in.
My understanding of art has been that we have to practice the act of silence which teaches us to be submissive towards the higher power. We must surrender into the moment to allow that which wants to be created through us.
It all seems to be a very spiritual process for you. Tell us a little about it.
When a vessel is ready, it needs to be fully dried, and left for a few days before it is first fired. After it comes out of the kiln, it becomes harder and ready to be painted.
I usually spend a day or two, leaving them open in my studio before I touch them to start painting. I believe the pieces are alive and need time to absorb and release whatever they want to. As I touch the piece, I see the patterns pop up in my head and without a plan my hands start dancing of their own volition. I never know what will emerge.
Each piece is hand painted with an original design, then glazed and put into the kiln again for the second firing. It is at this point, that I detach myself from the object. I do this to practice the act of surrender to what will be. There is always a 95% chance of a ceramic piece not being able to make it through the second firing.
When the door of the kiln is opened, its always Eid day. Once they are out after the second kiln, I take another week to hold the pieces in the studio. I spend the time I want with them before packing them off.
Tell us something about the patterns and motifs you use.
Patterns are the language of the soul. My patterns always have a story or an emotion, an energy I want to send out.
I study patterns from across the world. From Ajrak, to the free form of Chintz, to large florals by William Morris… As religion is a huge part of my life, there is a lot of Islamic geometry and Arabic Calligraphy. I am fascinated by Moghul architecture, textiles, jewelry and ceramics along with that of the Moors in Spain. One of my main influences was the sacred and traditional art of Mehndi from across the globe.
You have a daughter. Is she interested in your work?
Two days ago came to me, she came and told me she wants to be an artist like me. I cried and wished for her to have a life full of colors and soulful experiences.
Your home has a very cosy vibe. Does it reflect your personality?
My home is a place where life is lived fully. I don’t have a particular style. Having lived in so many countries I feel I am a citizen of the world and the world is within me. So with a cosy modern sofa we have Moghul art-inspired cushions. This is definitely speaking of who I am. Things like a rags rugs and a wooden chest to put my seven year old’s toys, keeps my house adult and child friendly.
It’s not all about a beautiful space for me. It’s about having a space that reminds you of experiences and every corner tells you a story that you’ve lived.
Do you use the garden often?
Yes! I love my garden. I am married to a man who has a green thumb, so no matter where we have lived I have been very lucky to have had beautiful gardens to sit in. Although I am not much of a gardener myself, I do enjoy my outdoor space. It is where I connect with nature.
What is your favourite area in the home?
My studio of course! It’s my santuary, a place of worship and my castle of silence.
Is there a favorite or special object with a story attached in the home?
I have a bird house from Hala that I love so much. I feel kid I have been a bird all my life and this piece is something that makes me feel home within me. It’s a terracotta piece with a white pattern and it’s something I truly treasure.
Connect with Humna on instagram @humnamustafa
Find her pottery at www.etsy.com/uk/shop/Humna