Meet The Maker: Artemis Ceramics
Photo by Kate Battersby
You may not recognise her face, but you will definitely recognise the mug. A woman with many titles, Art historian whizz, student mid-wife, dog mom to one, Georgia Casey is also the owner of Artemis Ceramics, created in her home studio in Tamaki Mākaurau. As the first entry to our Meet the Makers series, we welcome you to get to know the hard working creators who makes your favourite local products, G and Rose catch up over all things titty related!
Rose: Hi Georgia! tell me, midwifery and boob mugs.. what is it about the female form, journey and experience that fascinates you, how are they connected?
There is a definite connection, and it's a long connection too. I always did art in school, so when I went to uni when I was 18 it was always a given that I would study art history. Every year that went by, the topic that I selected for myself write essays on or photos to study I always went for female portraits, female nudes.
By the time that I got into my 6th year I was doing my Masters thesis, my entire work was around body autonomy of women. At the same time, I began taking pottery lessons, because I was in the library all day and needed an outlet. I guess because I had been studying nudes, I thought it would be entertaining to put boobs on a mug, and so that is where the initial connection was made. Then as I started making the boob mugs, while continuing with my studies, I started meeting māmās and midwives who found a connection with my work, and I kind of realised long after I had graduated that I didn’t want to be an art historian, I wanted to be a midwife, that’s why I decided to study it. Pottery was the connection for me between studying the art history and wanting to study midwifery, It was a really long journey!
Do you reckon you started Art History because a lot of it is female centric?
Definitely! I feel like I studies Art history because that was always just it for me, there was nothing that I was really interested in. I loved research, I always fancied myself to be a professor as I got older or an old conservator or something like that. When you’re 18, you don’t necessarily make the best long term choice for your career, so things changed for me. By the time I was 24, 25 I wanted something quite different, but the interest and passion was still there, it was just about how to apply it. The introduction into midwifery is called “The Art and Science of Midwifery” which I think is interesting because the lectures definitely drive home that the academic side of midwifery is important, there is a intuitive part that can’t be taught.
It’s an art?!
Wow, so what do you think is the art of midwifery?
I don’t know, for me it is really spiritual. It's not just about how bodies will respond to hormones or medication, it's also about how they respond to their own personal trauma, their journey, their relationships. Our bodies response to pregnancy and birth is so nuanced. It is so important to tune into each woman that you are with. When people say “Oh you want to be a midwife, you must really love babies” I say yeah, babies are adorable, but for me I’m doing it for the women, because I think that women need better advocates, because of the patriarchy and the medical world, and because women just know women. I feel I can be a really good advocate for a woman in the most vulnerable time of her life. So I love the medical side yes, but its definitely the connection and the spirituality of birth, because I think its sacred, it's a woman passing through the portal from maiden into motherhood, so that’s why I do it. For me that is an art, midwives see with their hands, I work with my hands. It's not that far removed to go form studying art history into midwifery if you look at it like that.
Georgia you have also been making Hāpu vases showing a pregnant form as well as the broken pregnant form-
Well, that one was a mistake.
A mistake in the kiln that signifies so much for so many!
Exactly! originally I didn’t see it like that. At the time when those vases broke in the kiln which was a massive surprise and a horrible shock. I had also gone through a massive loss of my own and so when I saw that, I thought what’s next? So I took to Instagram in a comedic way to say “Well, if you have been waiting for a Hapū vase, you’ll be waiting a while” People began messaging me saying “That reminds me of my stillborn" "That reminds me of my miscarriage, and how it felt like I lost a chunk of myself." I was like I hadn't even looked at it like that. I started getting all these messages from people, and that’s why I decided to finish the batches, glazed them and sell them and just donate all the profit to SANDS which was so nice. When I was selling them, a lot of people were sending to families or friends who have experienced loss and asking me to write in this card on behalf of them, to people who had had multiple losses or miscarriages. It was really overwhelming to feel involved, it was really huge for me.
It must have been really emotional, to go through those notes on your own and handwrite these out for people and their stories.
It was really emotional, what was a loss for me, signified a much greater loss for someone else. It was almost cathartic in some ways to have a visual representation of that loss. It feels really special, and I was glad that the money could also go an organisation that helps people when they lose babies.
Thats so beautiful, so tell me, the boob mug. When you made your first one- did you know you were making magic?
So how long does it take to make a boob mug? For those who don’t understand the process of hand made pottery, what would you say to them?
It's one of those things that I think, once you take a pottery class you begin to understand the process and how much work goes into it. I would say for me I allow about an hour that doesn’t include glazing an all of the other things. I don't know how to quantify timing but essentially I'll take they clay, wedge it up, get all the air bubbles out, throw in on the wheel, let it dry, sculpt the boobs, and I just keep going over it, to smooth it out and repeat. Then make the handle and trim it down and polish them off. Every batch I do I have damages. So for every batch I make there is sure to be a cracked boob or one that splits, then I will fire them and glaze them, I try to allow about an hour-ish per mug!
What do your friends think?
They just thought it was really silly and pretty typical of me. You know, I have no problem going for a nudie swim, getting my boobs out kind of thing, so my friends were just like "Huh, Classic Georgia." But then friends start reaching out like 'Oh, can you make one for this friend and that friend' and the circle just started widening over the years, now we are here. It's funny how that sort of happens.
You have had such a positive response what do you reckon is the magic of the boob mug:
Sometimes I think I am too close to it to see what people objectively see but the responses I get from people are so beautiful. I just think people find their own meaning, so it can be so diverse, I just feel they are normalising, it's liberating and its just fun, and beautiful. People have been sculpting nudes since the beginning of time so its not exactly an original idea but I think in this day and age where there is so much censorship and so much politicising womens bodies, I think it's sometimes just as simple as just a nice pair of boobs on a mug, it's normal. I don’t know, people can be so negative towards womens bodies and I like the idea that it challenges that.
Do you think it's a generational thing?
Yes and no. It's funny because I think people that are our parents age are somewhat conservative and think look away thinking “oh no I don’t want to see that” on a mug and anywhere else. But I have other friends parents who love it and think its great and are more relaxed. I think there is an element that is definitely generational, and that’s what I mean about people who make their own meaning. For some it's really profane to have tits on a mug whereas for some its really empowering and normalised. So many people purchase them for friends going through a breastfeeding journey for example, and there’s so much politicising of breast feeding in society but its normal, it doesn’t have to be sexualised! It can be whatever ya know, calling the shots for your own body.
Finally, what do you want to say to a Crushes customer!
Thanks for supporting me, you are getting me through my midwifery degree! The novelty hasn’t worn off that people want to purchase something I have made and I am really grateful to every home that my mugs end up in.
You can shop Georgia's Boob Mugs here at Crushes!