After seeing the assembly lines of China, Eva Spoof returned to Finland and started making ceramics from Finnish wild clay. Now Eva is a part-time entrepreneur in Kallio, Helsinki, where her company Udumbara sells pottery for everyday use.
”My siblings read books, I drew a lot. My mother worked at Arabia [a Finnish ceramics company founded in 1873] as a guide, and my father had close to 40 patents in his name”, tells Eva of her childhood. She has remained extremely creative throughout her life.
After completing studies at the Kuopio Academy of Design, Eva felt it was time to start her own business. “Entrepreneurship was tough in the beginning, but my goal was to be able to support myself with my own trade. I think it’s important to choose a profession that allows you to make ends meet. Udumbara allows me to pay my bills with my favourite hobby.”
The name Udumbara is taken from Buddhism, meaning “no worries”. Udumbara is a flower which blooms extremely rarely. Eva wanted her company’s name to represent how one can make a living though their own profession, even if the chances for success appear to be slim. “Part of creativity is figuring out how to make a living with what you create.”
Connection to the Earth
Eva’s plans for the future are clear, at least with regards to the two products that form her main focus. Her plan is to produce tea ceremony equipment and flowerpots. She’s very interested in the Japanese tea ceremony, which – according to her – is all about mindfulness. “Finnish wild clay is sacred, and hence perfectly suited for tea ceremonies. “
Making tableware out of Finnish clay allows people to connect with the Earth, and Eva is hopeful that her work could make this bond stronger. “Wild clay, taken from the soil of the Earth, brings an element of richness into the tea. Clay contains lots of minerals, iron and pore, making the tea taste stronger.”
It can take months to finish an item, and the biggest ones can take up to half a year. “I want to create the Bentleys of ceramics. I wouldn’t be doing this anymore if I weren't manufacturing the objects with the highest quality possible.“
Eva makes her products from Finnish natural clay, which comes from the Kultela brickworks in Somero, Finland. Natural clay is a warm, cozy and – most importantly – ecological choice of material. “Natural clay is very seldom used in the production of utility items. Tea ceremony utensils and natural clay are a perfect fit. The clay has been dug up from the Earth. It’s sacred.”
We asked Eva about the sources of her energy in keeping herself busy. Her answer said it all about her work ethics. She doesn’t see Udumbara as a job. ”At the moment I work at the airport as well as working with clay. I get a couple of weeks off during the summer.”
Transparency to the max!
Eva is very active on social media. For example, with Periscope she does live streams while making her products, spinning the potter’s wheel. “Performing in front of people is a crucial part of entrepreneurship. A couple of times I’ve had a stream on while working. I also read what people commented. For the most parts it was very fun, but some of the comments got perhaps a little out of hand”, laughs Eva.
Udumbara is also present on Facebook and on Instagram. “Social media is an excellent place to show your customers, both current and potential, your expertise and know-how. I design my products publicly.”
Advice for entrepreneurs
The entrepreneur’s attitude towards their own company is critical. “Don’t begin by establishing a conglomerate and hiring loads of people. Start, for example, as a part-time entrepreneur to find out if you can actually make ends meet. I’ll become a full-time entrepreneur only after making sure that I’ll be able to support myself with this.”
Eva stresses the importance of realising that the line between work and leisure can get blurry. “If you spend your off-hours without exception doing something other than this, it might be a good idea to ponder whether entrepreneurship is your thing. A good entrepreneur should spend some portion of their free time with their business. You must be passionate about what you do.”
Making and Doing
Her hard work has begun to pay off. Udumbara was part of the Paris Design Week 2016 expo, which took place in September 2016. “The burning desire to actually do, to create, must be in your soul. Thought is cheap.”
Eva switched from being the customer at a traditional bank to Holvi. “It’s nice to see that my current bankers don’t visit me wearing suits and briefcases. I don’t like the way traditional banks operate. Now I feel good about where I am.”