When Shelley Simpson first started mud australia in 1994, she had no idea that her products would soon be sold from New York to London
The story of mud australia is one of those inspirational tales of someone finding their passion and then turning it into an international success. Shelley Simpson, the founder of mud australia, had no formal training in ceramics but was curious to know how to throw a pot on a kick-wheel. She soon discovered she had a natural flair for the craft and became hooked on making handmade pots, so she set aside her career in theatre and the arts to concentrate on developing her skills.
Initially, she sold her products at local markets before moving into supplying restaurants and retailers, and, in 1994, mud australia was officially born. Originally using earthenware clay, the firm soon shifted to producing its products from highquality French Limoges porcelain clay. This shift enabled the brand to experiment with colour, glazes and finishes to arrive at the distinctive style for which it is known today.
Walk into one of the mud australia retail stores in Sydney, New York or London, and you'll be transfixed by the gorgeous array of colours that surround you. "Our palette is made up of 18 colours ranging from soft neutrals through to midstrength tones, and then a few bold colours as well. In our blues, greys, reds and greens, we have three versions of each colour. We then have secondary colours such as plum, bottle and steel, that act as bridges between the main colour groups," notes Simpson.
This staggering selection of hues — from the most delicate pastel pink to the boldest fire-engine red — coupled with a minimalist design aesthetic is what has made the brand so popular; after all, you know you are doing something right when gourmet goddess Nigella Lawson uses your ceramic products to showcase her delights in print and on her television series.
Simpson says of the unique palette, "Most ceramic has colour. Our range is slightly different in that our biscuit porcelain means the colour reads visually as matte, which absorbs light differently and makes the items more sculptural."
With over 70 shapes available in the collection, and additions being made seasonally, mud australia crafts dishes, pots, platters and plates, and the technique that goes into each piece is intensive. The porcelain is tinted before it is poured, then fettled and finished, bisque-fired, sanded and hand-glazed and finally fired again to vitrify the finish. Clear glaze is then hand-brushed onto the interior of each piece which, after firing, leaves the exterior with a vitrified, stone-like surface that becomes smooth with handling.
This is an excerpt from the “Firing it up" article from the July/August 2016 issue of Perspective magazine.
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