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Storytelling in Clay: Meet Aman Khanna

Our longtime collaborator Aman Khanna is the original 'Clayman'; the creative head behind the Claymen studio in New Delhi, Khanna produces beautifully handcrafted, expressive clay forms inspired by human emotion. We take a moment to discuss the designer’s journey to clay, and his ambitions for the future of Claymen.

1. Welcome back to The Conran Shop, Aman! Please tell our customers all about you and your Claymen.

I am a graphic artist, sculptor and visual storyteller. After graduating in graphic and information design from the London College of Communication in 2004, I set up my own design studio, 'Infomen', in London in 2005 and 'Infonauts' in New Delhi in 2009. My graphic style comprises quirky characters and iconic forms, which has drawn the attention of many international publications including Harvard Business publications, The Times newspaper, The Wall Street Journal and many more. 

Over the past few years, I have increasingly gravitated towards clay, the most common and ancient medium used by humans to create everyday objects. Clay has added a new dimension to my work; with this medium I began to explore the third dimension, creating small clay sculptures and objects that are inspired by my surroundings and the people living in them. I call them Claymen.

2. This isn’t our first, and certainly not last, collaboration with you; how has working with The Conran Shop affected your career?

If I am not mistaken, The Conran Shop approached me almost four years ago and we haven’t stopped working together ever since. It has definitely given me more visibility.  

3. You’re a masterful graphic artist, illustrator, sculptor and visual storyteller; which of these do you like best?

From the subtlety of communication to simplified forms, I feel It’s a perfect blend of all the above that makes me who I am and how I approach my work today.

4. Could you take us through your creative process? How do you come up with your eye-catching designs, and how do you make them?

Most of my works are based on feeling and they evoke a certain emotion. When I started, it was just me hand-moulding a single piece into shape one by one and I learnt all the processes involved along the way. As I started to bring the pieces out in the world, the admiration for them grew and so did the demand and it turned into a business. 

Now we are a team of ten, and each person is involved in a certain aspect. Sometimes there is a basic sketch that translates into a hand-moulded piece. For certain commissions, a basic drawing is turned into a 3D drawing and then it goes through the sampling process. Working with our hands feels like a luxury as there are so many other aspects to take care of in order to keep the engine running and bring my ideas to light.  

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5. How long does it take to create a Clayman?

A lingering thought would compel me to communicate it via a simple form and there is no timeline to this process. The production process however is complex, long, sometimes frustrating, but also beautiful. The pieces are either hand-moulded or made on a wheel. Depending on the complexity, it takes many different steps and a minimum of two-four weeks to finish one piece.

6. Are there any designers or brands that have inspired you along the way?

My design education has certainly helped me to be more disciplined with what I do, but I won’t say anyone in particular has influenced my work. The inspiration for me comes from my surroundings, the idea always is to capture a certain feeling or emotion and simplify the final outcome. 

7. We hear that the idea behind Claymen came from your observation of the common man and his dilemmas; where do you like to observe best?

I am fascinated by human behaviour and human psychology. The idea of being and why people do what they do has always fascinated me. The ideas could come from anywhere, irrespective of the physical location. 

8. You have worked across London and New Delhi, but where is your favourite place to make?

New Delhi is where all the action happens. It’s always hustling and bustling. London on the other hand is a bit more calming and organised, it’s a good place for me to collect my thoughts and put them together as ideas. 

9. How do these great cities inform your work, if at all?

Human beings experience similar feelings and emotions universally, which transcends geographical and political boundaries. This makes them relatable across the board. 

10. Finally, what’s next for you and for Claymen?

We have just moved to a bigger studio space, this will allow me to experiment more. We are currently making some large scale commissioned works in a new medium. There are a couple of art exhibitions coming up for us too. 

Explore our Aman Khanna collection, including pieces exclusively available at The Conran Shop.