Spending the last seven years ‘publishing good design, interviewing designers and thinking critically about design’ as the editor for interior design and architecture magazine Artichoke, Cassie Hansen found herself yearning for her own creative outlet. After her first beginner’s pottery course three years ago, she spent most of her weekends at the studio working on her skills. A year later, she took a one-year studio program at the School of Clay and Art (SOCA).
From her studio in Kyneton, where she’s recently made the ‘tree-change’ from inner Melbourne with her husband, Cassie creates delicate functional ceramic vessels that play with shape and form. It’s easy to see the influences she’s absorbed from all those years of covering excellent architecture, elements of which she translates brilliantly to her pieces.
We recently caught up with Cassie at her home studio, to learn more about her burgeoning ceramics practice, her influences from Japanese and midcentury architecture, and treating pottery as ‘a form of therapy’.
Hey Cassie! Congrats on the launch of your ceramics practice. How do you juggle this new practice, alongside your role as editor of Artichoke? Do you feel like you have a good balance?
I try to dedicate at least two days a week to ceramics – of course that goes better some weeks more than others. I went from full-time at Artichoke to part-time – I’m still the editor but have learnt to be very efficient with my time in the office now. I’m exceptionally lucky to be in a position to work part-time at Artichoke, and give the ceramics a go. The two complement each other – when I’m in the studio, I’m thinking about architecture and shapes and shadows I’ve come across at work that might inform an element of one of my pieces, and when I’m at the office, I can relate in some way to the design process of others. It all feeds back into each other.
Can you tell us the space where you create?
My studio is at home in Kyneton, in a little spare bedroom separate from our house. I’ve got a wheel in there, a work bench, shelves and a little kiln – everything I need and nothing more. When we lived in Melbourne, I handbuilt from a tiny desk in our house, and used a wheel at a pottery studio twenty minutes away, so I feel pretty lucky to have my own space.
When I’m in the studio working on the wheel, my dog Jimmy sits by my feet waiting for the wheel to stop. He knows I can’t pat him with my muddy hands until I’ve finished what I’m working on, turned off the wheel and wiped my hands.
I know you’ve recently relocated from Melbourne to Kyneton. What prompted the move, and how do your new surroundings inspire/inform your work?
My husband had been wanting a treechange for quite a few years prior to our move, but I took some convincing. Ultimately, we wanted a house and a backyard, and we couldn’t afford that in inner Melbourne. We’d been visiting Kyneton for weekends away for years, we got married here, so it was special to us, I was just nervous about the commute to work. But since the very first day we arrived, I’ve loved it here. We’ve made so many friends here (you can’t walk into Kyneton Woolies without bumping into about six people you know) and there are quite a few amazing potters here too (check out Sharon Alpren, Fork Ceramics and Minaal Lawn) who, like all potters, have been so generous and welcoming.
Tell us about your creative process.
It often starts with sketches. Mid-century and Japanese architecture inspire my work so I refer to books and imagery of these type of buildings, taking note of interesting shapes and compositions – sometimes the circular porthole window of a building might inform a spout on one of my jugs, or the geometry of a floorplan might inspire a handle. I sketch the idea out, refine it some more and then get on the wheel and create the vessel itself. Then I handbuild other elements, like the spouts and handles, and attach those until it what I intended in my sketch.
What do you love about what you do?
Clay has been like a form of therapy for me. When I’m in the studio, deep in the creative zone, it’s like meditation. Hours go by and I haven’t noticed. Clay is my antidote to screens and scrolling, and to my own internal hurried, anxious pace that I get swept up in some days. It’s tactile, it’s visceral, it’s slow, it’s unpredictable, it forces you to be in the moment – clay can provide everything that we don’t allow ourselves when “busy” takes over.
I read this interview with ceramicist and writer Edmund de Waal where he was asked what he loved about making with clay, and he said “It returns me to who I want to be, which is a fully present human being.” Clay really does have that ability.