As a child, Emina spent plenty of time in nature– notably the water and the forests where she grew up. These influences are very apparent in her work. You can see it in the way the bottom of her pots round out, their organic shapes reminiscent of the ocean waves and sea life. She also considers the way she’s experienced mental health and the way the mind works, using it to inspire the dysfunctionality and twisted nature of some of her pieces. Blending all that inspires her using a calming and minimalist colour palette, Emina truly finds and accentuates the beauty in the imperfect.

Emina sees the ideology of her business as two-sided. On one side, she has her actual art practice, and on the other, she has her teaching and her workshops. Hosting workshops allows her to connect with the community and bring people together to have a laugh and learn a beautiful new skill. In this time we’re in right now with work/grind culture, it can be difficult to prioritize our hobbies. Emina uses her workshops as an opportunity to welcome others to step outside of that and try something creative as well as technical. She makes it clear that ceramics is a space for everyone and hopes it becomes increasingly more inclusive and accessible, especially to women.

We sat down with Emina in her studio space here in Vancouver to talk more about her background and creative practice.


MODU Atelier

Emina Alcantara


Let's start from the beginning. Tell us about yourself.

I was born in former Yugoslavia. My family immigrated here right as the war was starting. As a kid, I would lock myself in my room and draw for hours at a time and grew up doing that. But you know, as a child of immigrant parents, I eventually got pushed into more businesslike things. I went to business school, but eventually wound up doing something creative in the end. The fact that I ended up back here is very healing to me.

I am the owner and founder of Noor Ceramics Studio and I’ve been doing this for about 7 years now. I make what I like to call sculptural, or dysfunctional functional ware. To me, that means one-of-a-kind pieces you can use every day but that have an aspect of art to them.


What does it mean to be a woman in art?

I think ceramics has been very male-driven if we look at history. I feel like a shift is being made now and it’s starting to be more female dominated which is really lovely to see. I think a lot of the supply-chain background is still very male-driven but ceramics itself and makers, there’s more and more women doing it and I think that’s beautiful.


What is a strong woman to you?

That’s a good question. I’d say someone who is kind but also takes no shit. A strong woman stands up for herself. Since having children though, I have started to see strength in different ways. I now see a strong woman as someone who is also able to be nurturing.


Where did you get your strength from?

My Mom. She worked so hard all the time and came to Canada with three kids when she was quite young herself. Being in a place where you can’t speak the language is tough and the fact that she fought her way through is pretty incredible. I definitely got my drive and my fight from her. I don’t think it was necessarily the norm at the time to raise strong women. I don’t know that she knew she was raising strong women. But she did. All three of us are fighters and we all built exactly what we wanted with her help. And so to be able to raise my daughter the same way is amazing.


What’s it like taking a workshop with you?

I like to create an environment that’s nurturing and pleasant to be in. I keep it light-hearted and focus on the comedy and the ease of what you’re doing. I want to make sure people are being kind to themselves. I also might make you watch the Johnny Depp/Amber Heard special in my class [laughs]. But other than that, we do also learn!


You spoke about working in corporate environments and then making the shift into the creative field. What advice would you give to someone who’s unsure of where they are in life and want to do something for their soul like you have?

To be honest, I’m terrified. All the time. Any time I put something out there that’s new, I’m terrified. I don’t know about the advice I can give other than just to try. I think trying and surrounding yourself with community that can pull you into doing something that’s new and different is the most important thing.


You’ve been kind enough to gift us with two of your beautiful pieces to display in our store. Do they have a name?

The bowls! They don’t have a name yet, but they were very inspired by water and all things twisted. All the pieces were first wheel-thrown and then put together and combined afterwards. I wanted to make something very sculptural.


Finally, what is the best part of your job?

That I get to do what I love. It doesn’t feel like a job. I think in the past, certain aspects of what I’ve done surrounding ceramics have felt like a job, but my art on its own and the way that I design, that does not. Being able to work with my hands and do what I love on my own accord… I feel so privileged to be able to do it.

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