How did she do that? Yon Kavvas on becoming a ceramicist

12 February 2018
By Fashion Quarterly

Yon Kavvas, archaeologist turned multi-tasking mum and ceramicist behind the popular Claybird brand, gets candid on being an artist, juggling motherhood with business, and adapting to plagiarism.

Can you talk us through your career path to date?
I’ve had two past lives: one in archaeology and one as a contemporary rug business owner and creative. I’ve always been good with my hands and naturally artistic so I am always falling into things that involve those things. While I was raising small children I did night classes in clay and was drawn to the freedom of playing and creating with such a tactile thing. Once my youngest was at school, I went into clay full time and started my brand Claybird.

What do you love most about your job?
That I have freedom to choose what I do. I let my creative process happen over extended periods and am not rushed to explore new techniques. I love the interaction I have with customers , which I get to do at the markets. It keeps me fulfilled and driven.

What is your biggest accomplishment that you’re most proud of?
Currently I am working on a bespoke range of ceramics for Veuve Clicquot for the annual NZ Polo Open, which is going to be a celebration of Madame Cliquot-Ponsardin who created the first Rose champagne 200 years ago. Together with two other female artisans, Jen Sievers and Karla Goodwin, the Veuve Clicquot marquee will be celebrating innovative and creative women. I am so incredibly humbled to be chosen to be a part of this wonderful commemoration.

What is the biggest obstacle you’ve overcome, as it relates to your career or industry?
The biggest obstacle I faced was one where people thought it was okay to copy my work and sell as it as their own ideas. It was a really negative experience, but I just had to kept moving forward, changing and growing my ideas. This approach has really helped me to develop a new focus in my work.

What motivates you?
I’m motivated by the people who continually support my work and come back for more. It makes me feel so good about the direction I’m headed, the decisions I have made, and the things I make.

What do you believe has been the key to your success?
Social media. Most of my business has come from Instagram and Facebook. For instance – being asked to do the Veuve Clicquot commission for Moët Hennessey New Zealand. They follow my work and approached me from there.

What is your life motto?
“Start being brave about everything.”

Do you think women have the ability to juggle kids and careers?
Yes. Without a doubt. For me, it is a juggle – after all, I have three kids and their needs to meet. But my kids can see and appreciate that I have been successful in my work and can be a good mum at the same time. Women are able to take on many hats at the same time and wear them well. We may not do all things well, but at least we can say we have given it a go. I think that message is especially important for my children.

How do you find work / life balance?
The reason I decided to go into clay full time is so that I could be a mum when the kids are home. I go back to work when I am really flat out at night after the kids are in bed. It’s a sacrifice I am willing to make.

Who’s your female icon or inspiration and why?
I’m inspired by many women, mostly those who I do the markets with. All of these women are creatives who make and sell their work. We all have different stories and backgrounds yet we share one major thing in common – we are innovative business woman succeeding in life.

We all have different stories and backgrounds yet we share one major thing in common – we are innovative business woman succeeding in life.

What did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be a forensic scientist working on crime scenes.

How do you relax away from work?
Going for a paddle board, drink good wine, hang out with my kids.

Technology you can’t live without?
My stupid phone. I have a love/hate relationship with it. But mostly I can’t live without it because I listen to podcasts when I am working. Keeps my mind working while my hands are doing their thing.

What do you believe is the secret to success?
A business plan. This has been a huge part of the success of my business. I am constantly adding and changing things on my plan over the years. I refer back to it now and again and it blows me away every time!

Who do you turn to when the going gets tough?
My mum. She is my keeper and my best friend. She understands me completely. She has been the greatest cheerleader of my work. Love you mum.

The one beauty product that keeps you looking fresh?
Aesop. There are too many in their range that I love so much to pick one!

What’s the outfit that makes you feel POW!!?
Love anything from Twenty Seven Names. Their clothes are POW!

You have already achieved so much, but what’s next for you?
Good question. I would like to dip my toes into another medium. But for now I am looking forward to having a holiday.

Photos: Instagram
Words: Supplied


Sign up & Join
FQ Insider

Unlock exclusive content, behind-the-scenes insights, and special offers by becoming an FQ Insider.

Fashion Quarterly Winter 2023 Cover
Fashion Quarterly Winter 2023 Cover

Sign up & Join
FQ Insider

Unlock exclusive content, behind-the-scenes insights, and special offers by becoming an FQ Insider.

Sign up to the Fashion Quarterly newsletter.

*Ts&Cs apply.
Find out more at