We speak with Melbourne maker Anna Cuttriss about her love affair with ceramics and the pleasure she derives from the smaller things in life, like a hot cup of tea or making a loaf of sourdough.
She also speaks of the inspiration behind her 'Vulva Vessel' series, offers advice for budding creatives and names a few of the ladies who most inspire her.
Age: The 27 club
Based in: Melbourne (Northcote)
What attracted you to the world of ceramics?
I’ve always loved doing things with my hands. I’ve always been a ‘maker’; someone who needs a creative outlet. I found ceramics at a time in my life where my creative side was really neglected. I felt I was lacking something that I was passionate about. I’d stopped drawing, painting and sewing and realised I deeply needed to maintain my creative side for my well being.
I’ve always loved ceramics, particularly functional pieces. I love that you can use a piece of art to eat your morning muesli or for your afternoon cuppa. Things that you use everyday that have been made with thought and intent. The part of making ceramics that I love most is how it pulls your attention deeply into whatever you’re making; there’s no room for mindless thought when you’re on the wheel. You’re just there, nowhere else.
And why vagina art in particular?
I began making my Vulva Vessels in celebration of women’s bodies. Talking about vaginas is something that we often shy away from; there’s a stigma and a taboo. I find a huge amount of satisfaction in making something that reflects the unique beauty of women, in all shapes and sizes. I love the female body and the feminine shape. I wanted to make something that embodied that.
There is also part of me that loves to test how people will react to them. When I take a cup to a café for my takeaway coffee, I get a small moment of pleasure when I see someone’s reaction. Sometimes it’s excitement and rejoice, other times it’s a quiet surprise. Both make me feel nice and smug. Testing it with some of the conservative dudes in my office has been great.
“There’s no room for mindless thought when you’re on the wheel. You’re just there, nowhere else.”
What /who inspires you most?
Women who are putting themselves out there, speaking up for the values they believe in, and who are embodying these values. There is no one person, in one creative medium, that inspires me more than another. I get small jolts of inspiration from so many beautiful people – and moments in everyday life.
My creative energy comes from seeing self-aware and self-assured woman (and a handful of men) moving through their lives with intention and motivation; this makes me want to do the same and not be swayed, creatively or personally. The Melbourne ceramics world is filled with talented, kind, creative and thoughtful women including: Arcadia Scott, Ella Bendrups, Sophie Harle, Emily Brookfield, Chela Edmunds, Adele Macer, as well as Daisy Cooper and Tina Thorburn, who have set up the wonderful Melbourne Ceramics Market.
I’m constantly inspired by how these ladies pursue their art. I’ve personally learnt a lot from many of these very talented and generous ladies.
Where do you feel you are most creative?
I feel most creative when I am able to slow down. This is a quiet day at home, where I can pop in and out of my ‘studio’ (aka my back porch) and make things in my own time with no pressure. Where I can also make a loaf of sourdough, or pause to drink coffee and read. I also rely on being able to spend time outdoors to refuel, something I don’t get enough of living in the city. For me, the joy of ceramics is being able to make what I want, when I feel like making it. This is part of the reason I have kept ceramics as a side hustle, as I know if I had to rely on it as my primary income I could lose that joy and the pressure of making enough money and fulfilling orders would crush that.
I need the variety of working full-time, making ceramics, and also teaching and practicing yoga to feed this creativity.
Advice for budding creatives?
Just keep going. Makings things is hard. Making ceramics is really hard, especially when you first start out. There have been a thousand times where I’ve nearly thrown in the towel. Times where my skill level has plateaued and I’ve felt I wasn’t improving or that I wasn’t where I ‘should’ be, when comparing myself to others. Where a lot of people would have given up, I persisted. I was no more talented than the other people I first learnt with, the difference was that I went back in my own time and spent 6-7 hours every Saturday persisting.
When I didn’t feel like I was getting better, I cried a bit, threw some clay on the floor in anger, took a deep breath and kept trying. I really wanted to make things, that’s what kept me there. I have also been someone who has given up on a lot of creative pursuits, but this was something I told myself I would stick at.
I would love to show newbies what my ceramics looked like 3 years ago when I first started. It’s good to remember that we all start somewhere. You also need to be good at saying “no” and ignoring or discarding the FOMO. I will turn down certain events and situations to make time for the things I prioritise and I think this is important in the creative hustle.
And the best advice you have received?
I’ve received a lot of great advice and, in yoga community especially, I am surrounded by beautiful souls who have spent a lot of time thinking and exploring big questions. Something that stuck with me was the idea that we only have a certain amount of energy to ‘care’ about things. So we need to be mindful where we put our energy.
If we care too much about what this person said, or that something didn’t go quite as we would have liked or whatever trivial thing we apply too much thought to, we use up this finite reserve when we could be saving this energy for caring about the things that matter. For me this is about intention; deciding where my energy goes.
“You also need to be good at saying “no” and ignoring or discarding the FOMO. I will turn down certain events and situations to make time for the things I prioritise and I think this is important in the creative hustle.”
How do you get out of a creative slump?
I do a lot of things. When I’m feeling unmotivated or uninspired in one area of my life, I shift gears and give myself a break; a chance to breathe and then come back to it. If I’m having an off day on the wheel, I’ll stop and do something else for a while, like practicing some yoga, sewing or cooking. Usually I manage to find flow in another area of my life and it kicks me back into gear.
“I get small jolts of inspiration from so many beautiful people – and moments in everyday life.”
Typical morning routine?
I’d love to say I’m one of those people who leaps out of bed at 6am, does some pranayama and meditates for half an hour, but in truth I tap the snooze button more times than I care to admit before dragging myself out of bed. Weekends and days off are a touch different. I am usually up by 7:30- 8, will make myself a pot of coffee and cook a slow breakfast. I’m also trying to start weekends with a 10-15 minute yoga practice, although this doesn’t happen every time. I often like to spend a bit of time at the start of the day, even if this is in bed, deciding how I would like to move through that day.
What are you working on at the moment?
I’ve been playing with a lot more playful patterns, textures and colours in some of my pieces lately; incorporating pops of colour alongside more natural clay bodies. In the past, I’d done a lot of blue marbling on the wheel, but I’ve moved away from this towards more classic colours and neutral/pastel tones.
I’ve been pushing my throwing skills to the next level and am making more larger pieces, mostly vases and planters, so these will be available soon too.
The pieces I’m working on currently are my favourite so far. They really resonate with me and I’m proud of them. And of course, I am constantly refining my vulva designs and playing with new shapes and sizes.
Where can we find your work?
I have a small selection available on my website at annacuttriss.com and will hopefully be updating the shop soon with more stock. You can keep up with when new pieces become available on my Instagram @annacuttriss – that’s where I am most active. I am a small batch artist, and as I work full-time in for the Victorian environment department, my stock is fairly limited. However, I do take a small number of orders on request.
There is also a limited selection available at Ingrain Designs’ showroom in Collingwood. These guys make beautiful furniture from reclaimed timber, which is totally worth a look. I’ll also soon have a selection of planters and vases at Bloemboer Flowers, at the rear of the Botanical Store, in Northcote, Melbourne.
I’ll also have a stall at the upcoming Melbourne Ceramics Market on Saturday 10th November, upstairs at 5 Easey Street, Collingwood, and am saving some new special pieces just for that.