DuckFeatures #13 – Asha Cato & Keir MacDonald

We’re thrilled to introduce Asha & Keir of Melbourne based homewares label ‘Angus & Celeste’ to you in our thirteenth Duckfeatures Interview.

Their story is a combination of fate, creativity, and compassion. With new projects on the horizon, we caught up with the pair to chat about their blooming business, and how they came to create a new, iconic Australiana aesthetic. 

  

Duckfeet: Hello you two! How are you today?

A&K: Hi! Thanks, we are well; life is hectic as usual!

You are the design duo behind Australian home wares label ‘Angus & Celeste’. Tell us a bit about yourself and your backgrounds.

We met a uni in the enrolment queue for the Ceramics course that we both were taking; we still laugh that there were only 14 people undertaking the course. It was fateful that we crossed paths on that day, which was (scarily) nearly 20 years ago!

They were great years while studying. We both majored in Ceramics. Keir took sculpture as his other area of focus, and Asha chose Printmaking.

We both bring elements of these other skills to the label. We each have a detailed eye for different things and this we believe really benefits our business.

 

How have your backgrounds in ceramics and sculpture shaped Angus & Celeste’s iconic Australiana aesthetic?

Shape is such a big focus of what we do. We create prototypes for forms that can be quite complex to kiln fire, so it really is a big part of what we think about. Sometimes what starts out as an initial sketch or hand-built shape can end up being very much different to the finished piece.

Along the way considerations of glaze, the type of clay you are using, the purpose for which it will be used as well as the application of the decoration- all need to be equally considered.

What, for you, constitutes good design, and how does that connect with sustainability?

For us good design is making products that are of the highest quality, durable and timeless in their aesthetic (fingers crossed).

This way the objects are not as disposable as some other items, which may follow fads and trends.

Ceramics can be a tricky medium, as once an item is created, it is subjected to up to 1280 degrees of kiln heat which can bring all sorts of surprises and irregularities which in Japan is known as “Wabi Sabi” a concept centered on acceptance of transience and imperfection. Glazes can run, impurities in the clays can come out, due to this A&C have adopted a bit of a spots on our apples sort of philosophy.

We have an outlet at our warehouse where these things are available to our customers, to avoid anything being put into landfill. Most of our customers respect this, we also off set emissions though donating each quarter to a local tree planting group.

We believe that good design works in close conjunction with the manufacturing process, even great design can be made poorly, as a result we work closely with our local and international potteries.

Sustainability is not just about the environment but also relates to the people who physically create the work and much care and understanding needs to go into these relationships.

 

Running and growing a business can be tough! What’s your favourite part of Angus & Celeste, and what do you find challenging?

It certainly can! Neither of us anticipated the challenges that would come once we got started. The business side of things can really test you, as each day you wear so many hats (that possibly don’t fit your head very well).

The most challenging part of the game is the time spent on the computer these days, as emails certainly come in thick and fast, as does the admin!

Predictably our favourite part of A&C is the designing and releasing of new products and any time we can get our hands dirty.

 

Can you give us an insight into a day in the studio of Angus & Celeste?

Angus & Celeste have an office and warehouse where our daily operations take place, this involves the usual sort of office stuff as well as the careful packing of all our orders.

As business grows and thanks to our great staff and our wonderful office manager Sarah, we are getting to spend more of the week in our design studio that we have at home.

Here we create new shapes as well as all the motifs and decorations that go onto them. We also have a pretty lush greenhouse too. Here we pot up all the plants into our planters, that then get sent off to the store in our trusty VW van.

We dream that designing and gardening will one day become our full time job, while the business ticks along around us. Each year we hope to get a little closer to this goal! 

What’s next for your label?

We are getting ready to release heaps of new designs this year some have been a long time in the pipeline.

While we will be focusing heavily on our garden ranges we are also working hard on an extensive dining/tableware range and are busting to show everybody.

Our pop up store near the Queen Vic markets in Melbourne has been such a joy and we hope to keep this running into next year and follow up with a permanent store after that.

Moving forward, making useful objects is something that we very much want to focus on. If you can grow something in it, eat of it or whack a bunch of flowers in it, then A&C will be making it!

(All images courtesy of Asha & Keir, Anthony McKee, and Damien Pleming)

Thanks for chatting to us!

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