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Mud Australia Celebrates 25th Anniversary with Debut Installation in Milan + New All-Matte Finish


In celebration of their 25th Anniversary, acclaimed handmade porcelain brand Mud Australia are currently presenting for the first time in Milan during Salone del Mobile 2019. In partnership with Calico Wallpaper and Ladies & Gentlemen Studio, STILL / LIFE, the exhibition, provides an interactive installation exposing the senses to the possibilities that lie between stillness and life. The incredible exhibition sees Mud debut a new all-matte finish, while interplaying with light and shade to showcase the timeless design and functionality of the brand.

Mud's porcelain range, designed by Shelley Simpson, combines handmade processes and clean lines to neatly intersect a minimalist aesthetic with an artisan finish. Celebrating longevity, with very rare releases of new pieces or colours, the new all-matte finish is an exciting introduction for the brand. Showcased alongside site-specific gradients by Calico Wallpaper with interiors and lighting by Ladies & Gentlemen Studio, STILL / LIFE provides visitors with a series of visual-sensory vignettes, weaving natural materials with original design works by the exhibitors. Embodying handmade craft, alongside nature-inspired colours and shapes, Mud Australia instills the space with timeless silhouettes, harmonious materiality and organic calmness.

Still / Life exhibition / styling and photography by Ladies & Gentlemen Studio

The spatial concept for STILL / LIFE was designed by Ladies & Gentlemen Studio founders Dylan Davis and Jean Lee, who imagined a space that embraces a dual state of tranquillity and vitality, revealing a calming yet enriching environment that opens the senses to elemental possibilities: a momentary day dream, a memorable flavour, or a chance conversation. For the installation, Calico Wallpaper developed a site-specific custom colourway of their Aurora design, which has been integrated into the gallery’s focal wall metaphorically mirroring a vast landscape that usher’s visitors to a place of transcendence.

Still / Life exhibition imagery / styling and photography by Ladies & Gentlemen Studio

With the Milan exhibition now in full swing, I speak to Mud's founder and designer Shelley Simpson about the collaboration, the new all-matte finish and what's next for the iconic brand...

An amazing way to mark Mud Australia’s 25th Anniversary, how did the Still / Life collaboration in Milan come about?

Milan’s been our radar for a long time, however, the sheer volume of exhibitors plus the hordes of design professionals that descend on the city for the week, has always seemed a creative challenge. As a craft-based business that celebrates longevity and avoids newness, we’ve always had an appreciation for collaboration and design, so it was serendipitous to receive an invitation from the creative minds at Calico Wallpaper and Ladies & Gentlemen to collaborate with them on STILL / LIFE; a sensory installation in a gallery space just north of Brera, Milan's artist quarter. We had previously got to know Rachel and Nick at Calico through our Brooklyn store (and having Mud on their wedding registry).

Traditionally offering a glazed finish across your collections, what was the driving force/idea behind the new matte product?

We very much like the sculptural light qualities of biscuit porcelain. Unglazed, the pieces take on a more earthy, raw aesthetic that celebrates the natural material. Porcelain is a vitrified material, and when left unglazed, it takes on a really beautiful smooth and dense character. Leaving the pieces unglazed also adds to the durability of the product, making the matte collection particularly suitable for commercial high-use environments.

Tell us about the colour palette you chose for the pieces being presented in Milan and how this fits in with the overall spacial concept.

On exhibit is a series of matte forms—both tableware and lighting—in an emotive colour palette of Ink, Citrus, Sand, Steel and Milk. Jean and Dylan from Ladies and Gentlemen, selected these five colours from our palette of 20 options, to complement the colours in Calico’s new wallpapers: the custom Aurora drop in the STILL / LIFE exhibition; and the new MUSE wallpaper by Faye Toogood in the adjoining space. The intention of STILL / LIFE aims to create a calm space for introspection and interaction and the combination of soft, gentle colours enhances the end result.

Mud Australia's new All-Matte Finish / styling by Shelley Simpson and photography by Petrina Tinslay

You’ve come such a long way since 1994 when you first picked up clay! Did you ever dream of being where you are now and what do you think it is about Mud that really resonates with people?

You can never plan for the future - four weeks ago we didn’t even know we’d be exhibiting in Milan right now!

After my first experience picking up clay, I knew I wanted to build a business around it. I applied for a local small business scheme, which required me to complete a business plan. This helped me set the intent from the start to build a profitable business in the process of doing something I loved. The range has developed over the 25 years and all the pieces we make generally come from a personal need with a specific use in mind. Our making process sits right on the edge of production and craft which means there’s an emotional aspect to our pieces but they still retain their functional edge. Having 20 colours allows people to create their “own range” and they can also add over time as their needs change. I’d like to think that people also connect to our Australian studio made story.

All of your products are made in your Sydney studio using porcelain clay sourced directly from Limoges, France. What is special about your processes and this type of clay?

Colour, durability and consistency are the factors we need for reliable production. We tried a lot of porcelain bodies and the quality of the Limoges porcelain from France has met our requirements over the years. The plasticity of the body for casting as well as it’s ability to take stain without major warping issues, even in our larger pieces, makes it perfect for us. The raw colour of the Limoges body is also really nice and comes through in our overall colour palette.

Mud Australia's new All-Matte Finish with styling by Shelley Simpson and photography by Petrina Tinslay

Mud has stores across Australia, and also in New York, LA and London. Are there any more stores on the horizon?

We’re really focused on our online store right now, available in Australia, the US and the UK. The growth potential for this channel is really strong and we’re enjoying the challenge of trying to replicate our very immersive instore experience in the online realm. In the real world another store in Melbourne’s east is definitely on our radar and we’d also like to open a small studio in Manhattan again, assuming we can find the right location.

I sense you're not one to sit still for long.... once the excitement of Milan settles down and you have officially launched the new matte collection, what’s next for Mud?

We’re focused on building our presence in Europe, and looking at other partnerships through the region, beyond our store in London’s Marylebone. We’re also refurbishing our Fitzroy store, extending it to incorporate a dedicated space to showcase our lighting collection, plus a courtyard garden area for our staff and visitors to enjoy.

In the studio we have new kilns arriving from Germany soon and there’ll be new colours and shapes on the horizon. We test all sorts of things in the studio, sometimes over a period of years, and only enter a style or colour into production when we feel it is 100% right. We’ve loved moving further into the design space with our lighting collection, and definitely want to continue growing that alongside special trade and hospitality projects.

A Scholarship Programme is also something we hope to introduce this year. Offering an annual grant for a selected student to put towards developing a body of work or using different materials. We’re in talks with a few design institutions in Australia, America and the UK to explore how we can best do this.

Mud Australia's new All-Matte Finish with styling by Shelley Simpson and photography by Petrina Tinslay

The earthy rawness of the new finish is just stunning! If you're lucky enough to be in Milan, STILL / LIFE will be on view for the duration of Salone del Mobile, from from 10:00 – 19:00 daily at Via Pietro Maroncelli 7, Milano. 

Images courtesy of Mud Australia 

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