Some days, you just really need some sort of escapism, and in the times we’re in at the minute, this escapism is probably needed much, much more. Someone that can help you with this, is ceramic artist Anastassia Zamaraeva. Anastassia produces fantastical, surrealist-esque figures and objects that each hold a narrative with depth and wonder. They are not from this world and instantly take you elsewhere. They bring subconsciousness to a conscious physicality, and they invite you to hear and see their stories.
So read on to find out more about Anastassia work and see where alse her passions lie, plus find out her celebrity look-a-like!
Cotton On MCR: Please introduce yourself and your work to the Cotton On MCR readers.
Anastassia Zamaraeva: ‘My name is Anastassia Zamaraeva and I am a ceramic artist. My work is mainly figurative and focused on storytelling and an exploration of our inner worlds.’
CO: What drew you to working with ceramics?
AZ: ‘I tried clay for the first time when I was 7 and instantly fell in love. I think part of what appeals to me is that it doesn’t require abstraction. When you are painting or drawing you take a three-dimensional image and make it 2D. You have to think about the technical aspects of things like perspective. But with clay there’s no compromise. I have an idea and then I can materialise exactly what’s in my mind, and there’s no satisfaction quite like it. The tactile nature is also a big draw in for me, often I feel like my hands take more control than my mind when I work with clay. And as an over thinker this is a welcome relief. When I’m making a limb for a figure I pick up a shapeless lump of clay and don’t quite know how I will transform it into an arm or a leg. But my hands start squeezing, pushing, pulling and a form emerges. I am really grateful for being introduced to the material as a child, children are able to make intuitively and I’ve been lucky to be able to hold on to that intuition and incorporate clay into my language.’
CO: Some of your work comes across quite whimsical and surreal. Do you agree and where do you get your inspiration from?
AZ: ‘I do agree. There is definitely a surreal quality to some of my pieces. I think that’s partially due to my need to put a face on everything; teeth, moons, fingers. The way I experience the world is very physical, for example I’ll describe feelings as ‘someone sitting on my chest’ or ‘having feet instead of hands’. Often this becomes the concept for a sculpture. I do a lot of sketching before I make something; I find it helps to access my subconscious and that’s where many of the ideas come from.’
‘I also have more tangible sources of inspiration, particularly books. I am currently making my way through ‘Women who run with the wolves’ by Clarissa Pinkola Estes. It’s a beautiful exploration of the Wild Woman archetype, an instinctual, wise and confident self that lives inside all women but has been repressed for centuries by those that felt threatened by her. The book looks at folk tales from different cultures and the lessons we can learn from them. It’s really been eye opening and has directly inspired a lot of my recent pieces.’
CO: A lot of your work uses earthy tones with the odd pop of colour, why/how did this become your palette?
AZ: ‘In all honesty, it because I’m bad at glazing! When I think up a piece I heavily focus on the form and forget about the finish until it’s time to glaze it. So often to avoid the stress of deciding I will leave pieces unglazed to reveal the natural earthy colour of the clay. Or I’ve got a couple of glazes that I can turn to which feel natural enough to not overwhelm the form. I’ve also made a few pieces that are inspired by water and where I like to use a combination of blue glazes that look like flowing water.’
‘Colour is hard. I love it in other parts of my life but I haven’t been able to make it work in my ceramics so I’m always drawn to other artists that have a good command of colour.’
CO: Which of your pieces is your favourite and why?
AZ: ‘I think at the moment my favourite is a piece I’ve called ‘La Loba’, it’s inspired by a Mexican folktale that I’ve taken from ‘Women who run with the wolves’. La Loba is translated as ‘Wolf Woman’; her purpose in life is collecting bones, in particular wolf bones. She collects the bones of creatures in danger of being lost to the world. When La Loba has collected all the bones of an animal she will lay them out in the form of that creature and sing a song that gradually breathes life back into it.’
‘When the wolf comes back to life it runs off, and as it runs it turns into a laughing woman. So in this story the bones represent the indestructible soul, parts of ourselves that have been lost along the way. In the underworld La Loba protects these parts, she keeps them safe and when we are ready returns them back to us. So the piece I’ve made has La Loba sitting with her legs crossed, she has a pile of bones in her lap and is laying out the others in front of her. I interact with her regularly. I’ll move the bones around or just put my hand on her back and it gives me a sense of security knowing that she is keeping my bones safe.’
CO: Has the lockdown affected your work in any way?
AZ: ‘It has. I usually work in a shared studio space at 7 Spot Pottery in Islington Mill. So that became a no go. I’ve had to relocate to my dining room table, surrounded by rugs and soft furnishings. It’s not an ideal set up for working with clay. I have been really grateful to the guys at 7 Spot because they adapted so well and kept their membership running by running a delivery firing service. Without this I wouldn’t have been able to fire my work and at this point I honestly don’t know what I would do if I couldn’t make my sculptures. It’s so ingrained in who I am that I would feel really lost.’
‘A positive of lockdown has been that if I get an idea at 9pm I can just go downstairs and make it. It’s got my itching for a proper home studio space.’
CO: If you were to make a piece that presented you, a figurative self portrait perhaps, what do you think you would create?
AZ: ‘That’s a tough one. Each piece I make represents a piece of me but I’ve never made something that represents all of me. I’d have to say the only thing that could really be a full self portrait would be looking back at my entire body of work. It would show my growth and development, my high points and my low points.’
‘I always struggled with drawing or painting myself. I find it difficult to have the objective view that’s needed to do a portrait. But I would like to make a bust of myself in clay. Partially just to see what it would feel like.’
CO: Where is on your travel list?
AZ: ‘I think lockdown has really given me a thirst for travel. I was born in Russia and lived in Canada as a child and in these last few months of lockdown my heart has been yearning for both of those countries. So they are definitely on my list. I was also supposed to be going to Morocco in May to learn traditional pottery techniques from a local artisan in the Rif Mountains. This was obviously cancelled but I’m very excited to go next year.’
‘For now we’ll be staying closer to home. My partner and I have our birthdays a few days apart in July, and we’ve been yearning for some nature. So the plan is camping in the Lake District, just thinking about it makes me feel good.’
CO: Happy Birthday to you both! If a film were to be made about you and your work, what would it be called and who would play the lead role?
Az: ‘My partner tells me that the first time he saw me he thought I looked like Scarlet Johansson when she acted in Ghost World. There is actually a good deal of resemblance there, it was filmed when she was a teenager and had a squishier face. So if this hypothetical scenario can include time travel, a teenage Scarlet Johansson would play me. And I guess the title would just be my name.’
CO: And lastly, if you could live in any piece of artwork, be it painting, sculpture etc, what would it be and why?
AZ: ‘I think it would have to be a song; KOKOROKO by Abusey Junction. It makes me dance from the first note and feel full of life. I imagine it would be a wonderful place to live.’
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