Ceramicist Caitlin Robson’s Sydney Home Is a Minimalist’s Dream
Welcome to The Makers. Each week, we’re celebrating innovators, artisans and crafters of all types, taking you on a private tour of their creative spaces. For this instalment, we head to Petersham in Sydney’s inner west, where ceramicist Caitlin Robson – the latest Maker to be stocked at Bed Threads – lives in a calm and cosy minimalist home.
Caitlin Robson thinks it might be fate. Earlier in the year, the ceramicist and her partner were looking for a place of their own when they came across this open and light-filled space in the Sydney suburb of Petersham. “I walked in for the inspection and it just felt right,” Robson recalls. “We made a joint manifestation list of everything we wanted in a home and this place literally ticked every box.”
Robson’s must-haves were simple but key: natural light, open space and an air of freshness. The Petersham building had all three, and so Robson submitted an application. “It almost felt predestined, I’ve never had an easier experience finding a new home,” she recalls. “It was the first house we applied for and we got accepted the next morning."
Since moving in, the couple have decorated the space with care and restraint, opting for a clean and minimal colour palette of whites, oatmeals, dark timber and soft linen. In the bedroom, a combination of Bed Threads sheets in Oatmeal and White give the space a cloud-like feel that is instantly relaxing. Everything is soft, clean and cosy. “I love a neutral and minimal space, with simple shapes and designs that add interest to a room,” she says.
Robson loves adding intrigue to each room in her house through lamps, rugs, soft furnishings and special objects, especially ceramic pieces that are interchangeable throughout the house. That includes several pieces made by her own hands out of her studio in Enmore – the same studio where she has recently been crafting a suite of four exclusive designs in collaboration with Bed Threads. (You can shop all of the pieces on our online store now!) “The collection is quite minimalistic in its designs,” she shares. “I love exploring simple organic shapes and fluid forms in my work, and I wanted this collection to embrace those influences to help create something I personally would love to display in my own house.”
Hi Caitlin! This series is called The Makers. What is it that you make?
I am an artist who works across multiple mediums, specifically drawing and ceramic art.
How does the act of “making” relate to your personality and who you are?
Ceramics can be an extremely therapeutic practice, but also extremely challenging at the same time with a multitude of complex stages along the way that can go wrong. Its difficulties teach you to be resilient and to adopt a “life happens” mentality, which I think is a reflection of my own personality.
I am very carefree and easy going, but driven and motivated when it comes to my passions and my art. I think this is what drew me to ceramics, as it is not only a grounding form of self expression, but also a constant learning curve that keeps me hungry to continue bettering myself and my art.
Tell us about your career journey to date. Did you always know you wanted to pursue this line of work?
I started in the fashion industry, spending many years working for a high-end designer. I always wanted to pursue art as a career, but never had the faith in myself to make it happen.
After a lot of self-work and exploration, I managed to move past my fear of failure, quit my full-time job and threw myself entirely into my craft. Initially though, drawing was where I was directing all of my creative energy, I had never considered that ceramics would be where I would end up.
However, as an illustrator whose work was focused primarily on realistic portraiture, I began using clay to create more abstract expressions of the forms I was illustrating, that would pair with the works to give added depth to their concepts. In doing so, I found myself falling more and more in love with the process of ceramics and the freedom of expression the medium provides.
Flash forward to now, I spend almost every day at my ceramics studio and I’ve grown so quickly on both a personal and professional level. Everything has started to feel in sync since that pivotal moment where I decided to leave my job, a decision based solely on my gut instincts.
Talk us through your creative process. Where do you start?
I’ll find inspiration for my shapes and designs through architecture, natural symmetry, paintings and furniture mostly. I have sketchbooks that I use to continually draw out shapes and designs that come to mind until I land on a shape that feels right, then I bounce off that and prototype it in clay. Once I’ve settled on a shape or design, I then begin experimenting with glazes and finishes that compliment the piece best.
My work often has a very neutral colour palette, often utilising the raw colour of the clay in its finish to let the form truly speak for itself. For example, one of the designs in this collection is texturised by hand to create an added depth to the piece, the details of which would have been lost if I were to have glazed the piece as normal. I chose to fire it with only an internal glaze, leaving the exterior raw and exposed, which elevates the sensory experience of the piece and its concept both visually and physically.
Can you tell us a bit about your collection for Bed Threads? What is the inspiration behind these pieces and what makes them special?
Each piece has its own conceptual roots. For example, the Footed Bowl design was inspired by the Senufo Stool I’ve acquired. It’s made from a single block of wood with no nails or screws and is traditionally made by Senufo tribes in Mali and Côte d'Ivoire. In Africa, they’re said to believe that a stool is a strictly personal item, and is the seat of the owner’s soul, which is a concept I love and wanted to reference in my work. I like to think that the pieces I make have the potential to create an equally soulful connection with their owners.
What’s been the single most crucial tool or strategy you’ve used to further your business?
Taking time to really connect with people. Be it in person or online, I think honest communication is vital in getting yourself out there, and there is nothing more infectious than authenticity and integrity when talking about your work. I believe the more you are in alignment with yourself, the more you attract opportunities that align with what you desire.
What’s been the most challenging lesson learnt so far in your business?
I’d have to say budgeting. With handmade ceramics, there are many complicated steps to each stage of creation, which means there is so much room for personal errors and external issues to arise that eat into already slim timeframes and margins. This makes it hard to project overall budgets, but I feel as though I am getting better at it with each new collection!
What’s been the best thing that’s happened to you since you started your business?
It’s probably not just one thing or event. I would say it’s the overall feeling of freedom I now have to believe in myself and my craft. As I spoke about before, years of crippling fear and self-doubt kept me from pursuing my own career as a creative. Now, I feel so excited by the future and feel more motivated than ever to produce authentic and inspiring art. That’s a feeling that motivates me and makes me grateful for all of my opportunities to date.
Do you have a single piece of advice you’d give to your younger self or someone looking to pursue a similar line of work?
At the risk of sounding trite, a letter to my younger self would be to push through the fear of starting. You’re only holding yourself back and amazing things fall into place when you trust in the process, and trust in your gut feeling.
Now, the home stuff. Did you do any renovations or make any big changes after moving in?
We’re renting so nothing huge. It was newly renovated on the inside so it was the perfect blank canvas for us.
What was the thought process behind the way you’ve styled the interior?
Using ceramics, lamps and side tables that are all interchangeable around the house is an easy way to give a space new life. I think by selecting pieces that are crafted for the long run rather than disposable furniture is key.
What are your favourite pieces in the home?
Favourite pieces in the home are my Senufo stool and a print by photographer Dan Goode above our bed.
Do you have any special décor pieces you’re looking to add?
More art for our walls, and sculptures to have around the home. Art makes a space feel more personal and resolved and I’m still in the early days of collecting my favourite pieces. It’s a thoughtful process and not one I’m looking to rush.
Which is your favourite room in the house?
The bedroom. It’s a warm and inviting space, we get amazing sunlight all day in our room and it’s a really calming place to unwind at night.
What are your top tips for a well-styled bedroom, and home generally?
Rug in the bedroom is a must, and warm lights in lamps. Lighting changes the mood of a space dramatically. We prefer lamps to ceiling light fixtures in our home.
Do you have any projects coming up you want to talk about?
The collection I’ve been working on for Bed Threads has been my sole focus over the past couple of months, so I haven’t been thinking too far ahead. However, I’ve not yet released my own personal collection of ceramics and it's been something I’ve been wanting to do ever since beginning this journey. I’ve been brainstorming and planning for ages now and I have my mind set on diving into creating it straight after this collection. I can’t wait to bring it to life.
For more from Caitlin, follow her on Instagram @caitlinrobson.