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A Lot On My Plate


Some Things I Like to Cook & Clementine Day acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of the land on which we work, create and live, and we recognise that Sovereignty has never been ceded.
We pay our respects to Elders past, present and emerging.

︎Copyright Some Things I Like to Cook 2020

A Lot On My Plate

As part of these monthly newsletters, I will be sharing short interviews with friends and creatives who have a lot on their plate. Everyone has been through a lot in recent times, and I wanted to check in and see how they're going, if these trying times have changed them or their relationship with their work, what good things they're enjoying and doing and most importantly, what they're eating.

For interview #5, I've been lucky enough to have interviewed Layla Cluer of Soft Edge Studio for this months "A Lot on my Plate" interview, which is exciting for me because I have long admired her work, and based off the amount of messages I get when I post a dish on one of her beautiful plates or bowls, you all do too. Layla is a superstar, she's great at what she does and she's a truly generous, lovely person too.

Tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got into making ceramics?

Sure, ceramics are a new and old thing for me. When I was 17 I went to architecture school, which I loved but mostly in a theoretical sense. Very early on I was given the opportunity to work both in practice and as a research assistant, so by the time I finished my degree I was quite certain I would always have an interest in Architecture but was very much questioning it as a career path. After that, I did some travel and continued working for a few years and then eventually found myself studying fine art at the VCA. Architecture felt restrictive, so the expansive ways of thinking and making that art school afforded were a welcome change. And the workshops were like a wonderland! I spent all my time pestering the technicians about new materials and techniques, trying my hand at almost everything on offer. That’s where first encountered casting and slip. At that stage, I was making moulds from found objects and using the casts (sometimes ceramic) as props within video works and as part of larger installations. But I was also utilising the near-empty kiln to make cups on the side, which I traded for prints and other artworks. Towards the end of my studies, I finally stopped working in architecture a got a job within the curatorial team at RMIT’s Design Hub Gallery which is where I stayed for the next three years and until I left Melbourne. There are so many great things I could say about my experiences there and the people I was lucky enough to work alongside. But in the end, I realised that I wasn’t fully satisfied making other peoples work come to fruition as a full-time job and that I was ready for a change of scene after a decade in Melbourne. At that point, my plan was to move to London to pursue masters but I returned home to the Northern Rivers for a break on my way and picked up clay again, and it stuck!  

How have last years events impacted your outlook/practice/focus?

Well, for one thing, I’m glad I didn’t end up going to London at the end of 2019. I can’t imagine being stuck in a small & dark apartment! Like everyone, I think this last year has been a bit of a mixed bag for me––full of highs and lows.

When the pandemic began, I was working part-time managing a gallery which came to an abrupt halt. So in the early days, while I worried about how I would pay my rent along with far more existential things, I occupied my hands by baking a lot of bread, and my body by surfing way more than I usually would. But I was itching to get into the studio by the time restrictions started to ease, so I really threw myself into it with a new focus as soon as I was able to return.

The uninterrupted time, coupled with the relative financial stability provided by the government gave me the opportunity to hone a few of my skills. Among other things, I spend weeks tinkering with minerals to develop a colour pallet that you don’t typically see in ceramics and from there things really started to grow!

The old adage goes, some eat to live, others live to eat. Where would you place yourself?

I’m definitely the latter! Food before most other things…

How do your cooking habits change when you are busy/stressed/tired?

For me, cooking is not only about sustenance and the sensual pleaser of eating. It’s about sharing, and conversations that ensue when we gather around a table. When I’m stressed and tired I definitely start cooking more simple meals, but I still try to make an effort to share them with others in order to create a pause in my day. My studio is on an old farm full of fruit trees, so I always bring lunch and make sure that my assistant and I stop at the same time to share it in the garden. It seems inconsequential but sharing lunch is something I always wanted to instigate if I ran my own team or business.

You used to live in Melbourne and took the plunge and moved to the Byron Bay Hinterland. How has this changed the pace of your life? And what do you miss about Melbourne?

As I mentioned earlier, I grew up in the area so it was more of a homecoming than a plunge. That said, I never saw myself moving back permanently. But once arrived, I realised that I had been deceiving myself, thinking I needed to follow some sort of trajectory that necessitated living in a major city. We have the internet and air travel after all! And I quickly rekindle my love with the warm ocean and slower pace of life! I was always itching to get out of Melbourne, each weekend I would try to escape the city and go hiking or camping – in the end this it was more exhausting than restorative. Now I get to go for my morning walks in one of the many incredible national parks that surround my house!

I miss my friends and the food, of course, but I can always visit.

Could you share with us some of the music that’s been getting you through the past few months?

Because my hands are covered in mud all day I can be a bit lazy when it comes to listening. I listen to a lot of NTS programs – World in Flo Motion, All Styles All Smiles are a few of my go-to's. But it really depends on my mood… and the weather!

The lovely photo of Layla is by Avan Podhajsky