I first met Anna at a clothes-swap, where she ended up going home with a red merino wool jumper of mine. I'm not sure about where that jumper is now, but I've grown to admire this hard-working woman and her beautiful tumblers, which hold my morning coffee every day.
The interview below originally featured on Smudge Eats in edited form.
You can see more of Anna's work here.
Why did you venture into ceramic making?
I’ve always been creative and growing up I painted, drew and sewed. When I left school and pursued Environmental Science rather than a creative path, even though I still sew, my drawing and painting fell away, and I needed to find something to fill that creative space. I’ve always loved beautiful crockery and functional ceramics and was searching for a new creative outlet I started learning 18 months ago. Even during my first class, I knew it was something I had to continue; it’s so meditative and really feeds my creative side.
Where is your studio and how often do you manage to get there?
The studio I use is located at Northcote Pottery Supplies, where they provide casual studio access and firing services. Given that I work full-time on weekdays, I can only use the studio on Saturdays, so I generally spend most (or all) of my Saturday there. I’d love to be able to use it more often, and as I have such limited time there, I can generally only make around 30 pieces each month.
Who taught you your craft?
I completed a 6-week wheel throwing course at Northcote Pottery Supplies under the instruction of Claire Johnson. Since then it’s been the persistence of going into the studio regularly and sharing knowledge and techniques with the other regulars that use the space. The kindness and willingness to share knowledge from others in the space has been invaluable to me, as well as a sheer determination to improve and perfect techniques.
What inspires your colour scheme and marbled aesthetic?
Although it probably sounds cliché, growing up by the ocean in Inverloch has probably been the reason I’m drawn to the classic blues and oceanic tones. Blue and white is such a classic colour palette in ceramics and I love the contrast the two create. I love the process of marbling, as it’s creates a unique pattern for each piece, and you’re never quite sure how the final will turn out. Although it’s super ‘on trend’ currently, it’s a technique that has been used for many years, particularly in Turkish ceramics. I’m also exploring more colour palettes and trialing the use of pinks and greys. These are proving a little more temperamental than blues though!
Your brand development has been impressive in a short space of time- how do you use social media to market your products?
This has happened relatively organically, mostly through regular posting at similar times of the day and engaging with others on Instagram. I’ve also been fortunate to have some of my work shot by photographer Cecile Armand so having some styled pictures definitely increases the interest I receive on Instagram and my website. Photography is also something I love, and I love when I take a new piece out of the kiln and think about how I can style a post that will showcase it best. Instagram is a huge source of inspiration for me, so I love seeing how others style their work and I think genuine engagement with people and their profiles is what attracts the greatest interest – it’s about remembering that it’s a person with a story behind the profile.
Where are you stocked and how did you form relationships with your stockists?
I am currently stocked at two locations in Melbourne. Ingrain Designs makes beautiful furniture from sustainably-sourced, recycling and reclaimed timber. I actually had a bench made for my mum’s birthday from them and their showroom is located just across from my house in Collingwood, and we got chatting about locally made art and ceramics and it grew from there. Ben also helped me when my car broke down out the front of my house – he’s a total legend and has been really supportive of me and was the one that told me I needed to develop an Instagram devoted to my work, so I’m really thankful for that.
I also sell pieces at a small café on Little Lonsdale Street in Melbourne’s CBD. Ways and Means café is where I go to get my coffee every day and each time I take my own cup in there for takeaway, which is how I began selling them there. I’ve developed a great relationship with the owner Kate, and a few of the baristas she employs (plus they do the best coffee and jaffles near work!). They operate as a social enterprise, and as an initiative of Youth Support and Advocacy Service (YAAS), they help young people experiencing serious disadvantage to access the support. I’m really grateful to be selling my work at two businesses whose morals and values so closely align with my own.
How long does one piece take to produce?
From start to finish, each piece takes around 5-6 weeks to make, so it’s quite a lengthy, time consuming process. This starts with throwing the wet clay on the wheel, then allowing it to dry before trimming it. After more drying, it’s fired to 1000 degrees C, then sanded and glazed, before going into the final stoneware fire, at around 1300 degrees. The high firing temperature means that it’s safe for use with food and liquids and will survive the dishwasher and microwave.
As I can only use the studio once a week, this also limits how quickly I can turn pieces around, but given the drying time that is required for each, it’s never going to be a quick process. Pricing my work has been difficult, as although I’ve had great responses to my pieces, often people don’t realise the time and effort that each piece takes to make, and even just the cost of the raw materials adds up.
What has the response been like to your work?
I’ve been surprised by how positive the response has been. As I’m relatively new to ceramics, and still have a lot to learn and a lot of technique to perfect, it’s been really encouraging to receive the feedback I have. It’s made me think that I may actually be able to do this more, and not just to cover the costs of my materials and studio time, which is the aim at the moment. As I said, I still have a long way to go and would love to begin slip casting work so that I don’t need to access a wheel and can make things from home and still need to practice working on bigger pieces, which is difficult when I only have time once a week, but I’m getting there slowly.
What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
Ceramics. Most of my spare time is spent thinking about designs and new forms, as well as exploring new colour palettes and the testing them out in the studio on Saturdays. But other than this, I practice yoga 3-4 times a week, and am exploring training and as teacher, as well as making quality time for my friends and family. I also love to cook, so spend most nights each week cooking for my housemate and friends. Food is a real joy for me and even more when I can serve it on pieces made by me.
What is your go-to dinner party dish?
This is probably the hardest question of all. I rarely cook the same thing when I have people for dinner, but I’m a sucker for a slow-cooked leg of lamb with my go-to shredded kale, spelt and roasted cauliflower salad with smoked almonds and pomegranates, and crispy roast potatoes. Octopus is another favourite of mine to cook. As I said, cooking for loved ones is a joy for me, and finding new variations of dishes gets me excited.
Photography courtesy: Anna Cuttriss