Beauty, simplicity, utility and individuality – Wingnut & Co’s basic ethos comes through in every piece they create.
Artists Anna and Asuka are the talented duo behind Wingnut & Co. Together, they create a range of ceramics designed for everyday use, with every piece made by hand in their off-grid studio in Trentham. We’ve been offering Wingnut & Co.’s beautiful, sturdy Studio Cups since 2016, and we deeply admire and appreciate Anna and Asuka’s commitment to considered and practical design, and to building a sustainable and thoughtful creative practice.
We chatted with Anna and Asuka about how they started Wingnut & Co., how and why they do what they do, and what their plans are for the future.
Market Lane Coffee: How did Wingnut & Co. get started?
Wingnut & Co.: After graduating from the VCA in 2010, we both focused on our separate art practices. At that time, Asuka attended a short course in wheel-based ceramics at the Carlton Arts Centre. Very quickly, making with clay became an obsession for Asuka and at any spare moment – before work, after work, on the weekend – he would be in the shed, on the pottery wheel.
We both have backgrounds working with timber and, at that time, we were busy making tableware and furniture for our home and friends. Asuka was working full-time as a furniture maker and Anna was working at a picture framer’s. As we gained more knowledge around working with different materials and learned how a small creative business can operate successfully, we started to consider starting our own studio in 2012.
At the time, trips to visit family in Japan provided Asuka the opportunity to learn from a potter in Northern Kyushu. Asuka’s focus on pottery was unwavering and so it was only natural that ceramics became central to the first range that we launched, very quietly, as Wingnut & Co. in 2013.
What is Wingnut & Co.’s goal or purpose?
We admire considered and practical design, and we try to reflect these qualities in our own work. We are attracted to natural materials, highlighted with simple glazes and brushwork. We aim to create pieces that are made to last and can be used daily.
What materials do you use for the Studio Cup?
We use our own blend of commercially available Australian stoneware clay. We are off-grid so we use tank water and solar power in the studio. Each cup is thrown by Asuka, either on an electric potter’s wheel or on a kick wheel. Every handle is extruded, shaped individually and attached to the body after the base of the cup is trimmed on a kick wheel. The cups are dried slowly to avoid warping and first fired to 1000°, then dipped in glaze and fired again to 1280°. Each piece is made and fired in our workshop in Trentham, Victoria.
What motivated the shape and design of this cup?
We both wanted a cup with a handle – one that we could use all day, in our home and at the studio. We wanted a handle that was classic in shape but also robust and comfortable to hold. Each Studio Cup has its own characteristics, such as a tiny wobble in the body or a gentle twist in the handle. We like them all to be individual pieces.
You recently relocated to Trentham, about an hour away from your old studio in North Melbourne. How has your production process changed since you moved?
The most significant adjustment in moving to Trentham has been living and working off-grid. The existing solar power is limited so Asuka is throwing mostly on a kick-wheel and we are learning to take full advantage of sunny days. We have a bore, a well and tank water which we use in the studio. This first winter, we occasionally used a generator but our workshop (which we will build in 2022) will have new solar panels and batteries which will cover most of our energy requirements, bar the kiln. In the future, however, the plan is to run our smaller kilns using solar power.
Aside from utilising renewable energy, there are other opportunities here for best practice production. Processes that we have experimented with in the past decade but have wanted to be more central in our work, such as sourcing local materials and understanding the surrounding geology. After the terrible storms we had in 2021 there is a shocking number of massive uprooted gums, leaving cavities of earth exposed, which has allowed us to take small samples of clay and mineral rocks from different locations without disturbing country. The red earth here is high in iron oxide and clay content, so even soil from our veggie patch is useful as a decorating slip. We collect timber from fallen trees (in council designated zones) to use for woodworking, for future wood-firings and to keep us warm (winter is long here)! The ash from manna gum and blackwood offcuts has already produced some beautiful glaze test results.
It has been challenging and everything is slow, but we are happy to be finally working in ways that we have wanted to for years and using processes that satisfy us.
Process photos courtesy of of Anna & Asuka, and photos of finished cups by Linsey Rendell.