For this Mi Casa, we step into the home of Alex, the visionary behind Muddy Clay Play. Living in the Northern Rivers, nestled in a space that embraces the true essence of home, we discuss the transformative power of temporary changes, from replacing dated fixtures to adding personal touches with removable elements, her space is adorned with unique and meaningful pieces. The ability to make temporary adjustments empowers homeowners to continuously evolve their space, reflecting the ever-changing chapters of their lives. It’s a celebration of impermanence, where every alteration becomes a canvas for self-expression.
In this Mi Casa we are reminded of the significance of cherishing our living spaces as more than just physical structures, but as living, breathing reflections of our inner selves. A in depth discussion on home, life, art and creating spaces that foster deep and meaningful connections.
SHOP THE LOOK
What does home mean to you?
It’s a nest. A space for deep rest and reconnection. A culmination of the colours, textures, scents and shapes that are pleasing to me. A carefully designed habitat to afford me a space I can be entirely myself in. So that when I leave I am prepared for the world and when I stay I am afforded an emotional quality I don’t find anywhere else.
Could you provide us with insights into your personal journey into the world of pottery and share what aspects of it you find most enjoyable?
A fundamental element of the way I teach my classes is nurturing the process and understanding that it’s entirely different for everyone. My most potent memory of my early schooling was when we had a task to make a parachute person out of a series of materials for ‘creative time’. We had a sheet with instructions of exactly how we were to execute said exercise. I was much more drawn to pictures and didn’t care much for instructions so I trotted over to the craft corner and experimented with different materials. One hour folded into another. Time didn’t exist. Exploration was exponential. I ended up with my interpretation of a milk carton hot air balloon with a borderline offensive burst of colour. When the class reconvened my teacher summoned me up the front and I remember becoming quite hot in the face and worrisome presuming a reprimand was afoot. She plucked my creation and instead commended how wonderfully strange it was. Noting that I had deviated from the brief and in doing so had birthed something quite interesting. My concern immediately shifted to pride and trusting play was cemented for me as a natural extension of my expression. My mum was also key in fostering natural expression so I was blessed with an environment that drowned out the deafening pitch of replication. I don’t think this is the natural flex of our day when it comes to teaching a craft. A preoccupation with the end result of a product and ease of execution seems to trump the emotional quality afforded by pure play unhindered by expectation. The latter is the only method in my mind to enter into the childlike state of wonder. For me, this is the purest form of presence and a language lost in adulthood.
My mission when it comes to pottery, is to practice and teach the great unlearning. Unlearning adult interaction with tasks and reacquainting ourselves with what it is to explore the earth with eager eyes and unhindered hands.
One of the first ceramic objects I made as a kid was an anatomically incorrect bee where the stinger was on its head like a unicorn or something? But that’s the thing with pottery. You can shape anything you want, then turn it to stone and nobody can tell you otherwise. It’s permanence in the world cemented, literally.
What inspired you to incorporate Pampa rugs into the interior of your home, and how do they contribute to the overall style you’ve created?
They are great all rounders. I feel that when searching for textiles or homewares a lot of brands focus on one element leaving not much thought for other details. A rug that’s aesthetically pleasing but neglects the integrity of its production process or a throw that lasts one winter because its weave pulls each time it brushes past a pair of jeans.
Pampa doesn’t adhere to fleeting trends, quick production or unthought out design. It’s its own animal unhindered by the current of others. That’s what is so attractive to me. I know when I lace my floors with woven goods from this brand its natural fibres are soft to the touch, timeless and a literal work of art woven by artisans that are compensated for their incredible skill.
They elevate the aesthetic that I’ve curated in my space and if I were to change my tune with design, they would still compliment. I have Pampa in both my ceramic studio and my home space and they offer a grounding element. The colours are earthy and there is a complete focus on intricacies of the design. Whether it’s a pattern of layered woolen tufts to cast shadow or knotted tassels to draw the eye, it’s art for your floors.
What do you love most about living on the Northern Rivers?
I’ve never lived in a place that has such a supportive creative network. A community of humans that genuinely want to see you do well and will go out of their way to champion that. I think that’s why this area does so well in that regard. Instead of being oppositional there’s a collective consciousness of innovation and power in numbers. The momentum that comes when the birth of a fragile idea is propped up by many hands. There’s nothing quite like it.
Can you share any unique or standout pieces of furniture, artwork, or decor that hold special significance to you and your home?
Because I live in a modest space I’ve made sure everything I have placed inside it is a work of art. From my bed frame to my teapot it’s all very intentional. The ceramic plant pot by Kate Bowman on my kitchen wall is from the first group exhibition I ever did. When I cook I get to look at it and re-experience that time. My bed I designed with my friend and master industrial designer Dana Watson of Workshop Kama. Hours of drawing shapes and reconfiguring building blocks together to come up with the feet. I wanted it to feel like my sleeping quarters were floating above shapes. I will keep it forever. The photograph above my bed was gifted to me for my birthday and taken by a friend of the South Australian sand dunes. An ode to my birth place.
I am surrounded by friends that are incredible artists and designers. Having elements in my home that have been shaped by their hands makes me feel like the most unique parts of them are a part of my habitat.
How do you incorporate your personal style and aesthetic into your work studio?
I workshopped how I wanted the space to feel and worked backwards from there. A clay cocoon. A space for flow state. A portal for play. I have the same principles I use for my home space in my studio space. For me, it’s a tug of war between maximalism and minimalism. A juxtaposition of shapes, colours and textures to invite and intrigue but not overpower. If there’s simplicity in the shape of an object I am likely to play with colour and pattern to add an element of oddity. If its coating is neutral I want to incorporate playful components into its design. The community table made from blackbutt boasts an incredible burnt honey grain. Dana and I wanted to be child-like with the leg design and after pages and pages of scribbles we settled on zigzag planks. It reminds me of a playground when I look at it and it makes me feel warm.
What are some of your styling tips for a small space?
Be intentional with the elements you’re incorporating. Get rid of absolutely everything that you don’t need. Clutter will be the killer of calm. Each piece in my home that needs to be there I’ve made certain I absolutely love it and I want to keep it long term. You can be obscure with unexpected things. I didn’t like my coffee table books laying atop one another because I found they were never read. So I made a ceramic sculpture they could nest in and now it’s one of my favourite nooks.
Share some temporary and removable interior ideas that can enhance the aesthetic of a rental space?
Locate the elements that are dating the space and replace them. The kitchen and bathroom areas, I find, are generally the biggest areas for transformation. Replace cupboard handles with a more interesting design. Replace dated shower fixtures with a rain showerhead from Bunnings. Replace old toilet seats with new hardwood versions. If you’re REALLY committed like me, give the place a fresh coat of white paint to render the walls a blank canvas. This will lift the space more than you know without shelling out too many coins. I’ve done it in every rental space I’ve been in and it’s been an essential part of my process in making it my own. Next you can layer your interiors by starting with your focal pieces all the way through to your textiles and decorative elements.
What’s next for Muddy Clay? Are there any exciting projects or collaborations in the works that you can share with us?
I’m pretty thrilled to be working with some local businesses through my sister brand MUDsmith where I channel all of my commission work. This is where I get to climb inside someone’s vision and translate it through my fingers. Sculptural forms for a moody wellness space and a project with one of my favourite clothing brands that will reveal itself in the coming months.
As for Muddy, I will be bringing in some winter warmers to curate an environment where people can come to connect with themselves and the person sitting next to them. Sessions to foster play and an explorative expression we seldom allow ourselves. A habitat where wonky is celebrated.
Photos: Andi Plowman