05. In Converstaion with Misma
We sit down with Misma Anara to discuss her background, creative process, and what influences her unique approach in ceramics.
Tell us a little about your background, and how it has influenced where you are today.
I think it’s fair to say I had a pretty unconventional background. I recently described my mother as a Maori, Buddhist, environmental activist and my father as a highly sociable, ex-monk, hermit! They were both people who had very clear values and ideas about what they wanted from life and who lived their lives very much in accordance with those ideas. So even that alone has been very influential.
My father has lived in a hut in the bush for the last 40 odd years and there are all sorts of ways in which he has been an influence, but I’ve been pondering a lot recently on how he was the first artist in my life. He built his hut and workshop himself, he makes the most stunning stain glass windows, he assembles these quite incredible…I don’t even know what to call them, mobiles I guess, from beads and small animal bones and skulls, he makes these elaborate carved wooden picture frames. He’s sewn robes and made leather jackets and kites… really it just goes on and on. He never went to any classes to learn anything, he just figured everything out himself.
I find all of that profoundly inspiring. Firstly that you can actually make things yourself. You can make things yourself! But also that you can live in a way where art isn’t on a pedestal, it can be totally integrated into your living, breathing every day.
Can you give us a little insight into your creative process?
I’m very fortunate to be able to work from our flat, in a perfect little studio down the end of the garden…so, hmmm, my creative process is very… ‘relaxed’.
By which I mean the working/making part of the day is very much all mixed in with the other ‘staring out the window, reading in the sun, doing the garden, napping’ parts of the day.I’m a pretty chronic homebody so I really love and appreciate getting to enjoy all the aspects of my life at the same time. Even though it undoubtedly makes me much less productive than I could be. It does mean though that I still enjoy it as much as when I started. I still just love being in the studio with Concert FM blasting out, and when the tide is right I can go off for a quick swim and have lunch and when I go back into the studio it all still feels like play.
When I have a good rhythm going, I’ll roll out slabs of clay in the morning (even that very first step takes a lot longer than you’d think) and dry them between boards, regularly turning them over until they have dried just enough. While the new slabs are drying I’ll be assembling the slabs from previous days, fussing over the forms once they’ve been all put together, or sanding the dried forms. I go out to the place where I fire once a week.
There are a lot of steps in every piece and every step takes a lot of time. It’s about 4-6 weeks before one thing is fully finished.
What influences your style of work?
I would say that the limitation of not using a wheel has been, in a very real sense, the biggest influence on my work. I mean, it pretty much is just all squares and rectangles, so the style was very much set by that limitation. And I really love that.
It’s hard to pick apart or tease out all the threads, to know what influences this and what influences that.
There are a lot of inputs I will say that much! I’ve always been a huge, huge film watcher and I read a lot and I love clothes and art and sculpture and music and buildings and chairs and bowls and gardens…..everything…I love everything. So my aesthetic or style or whatever is made up of all these things all feeding into each other.
I don’t ever think ‘I want to make work in the style of this or that’ I just know intuitively what I do and don’t like. What proportions feel right. And I think that comes from all those threads all weaving together.
But I can’t think of any specific influences. Like everyone else I adore Lucie Rie. I revere her like a beloved godmother.
How has your work evolved over recent years?
Ask me in another 20 years! At this stage I feel the only way it’s evolved in any real sense is that my lines are straighter now than when I started. It all still feels so new to be honest and there hasn’t been time for evolution.
It excites me though, to think about the evolution still too come. What do I want to move towards?
Is there anything exciting or new coming up this year for Misma Ceramics?
Truly I’m so looking forward to what this year is going to bring. That I’m getting to do this at all is something I find amazing beyond belief. It’s only been about 7 or 8 months that I’ve been making ceramics fulltime. I don’t know when that feeling will settle into feeling that ‘this is my life now’ but I think it will be a long time before I wont want to pinch myself anymore.
This morning I had a meeting with a new stockist that I’m terribly excited about. I have a custom collaboration with Isadia Floral that will launch in April, and another collaboration that’s being worked out.
I also want to make sure I’m leaving enough time for experimentation, as that’s something that kind of fell by the wayside once I started getting consistent orders. Actually, I would have enough time for that already if I didn’t skive off to swim in the sea or have a nap every day…but oh well.