Artist Interview: Samantha Mathews

Samantha Mathews, a ceramicist working at River Studios, welcomed Creative Spaces into her studio to learn more about her artistic practice and chat about her current project — a ceramic teascape inspired by her cultural duality.

Upon entering Sam’s River Studios space, it’s clear that she has made her studio her own. Though it was a cold and rainy May morning, Sam’s studio is warm and inviting, complete with a Nespresso machine and seating area by her wheel arranged for conversation — a key component of Sam’s current creative project. 

We sat down with Sam to chat more about her experience as a ceramicist, and the key drivers behind her teascape project. 

Sam began working with ceramics over 10 years ago. Originally starting as a hobby, it quickly became more serious during lockdown. Unable to visit her parents and family to connect with her Anglo-Indian heritage, she began questioning her identity and duality of experiences. With Indian and Australian heritage, she felt a sense of distance between fully claiming one or the other — and explains that since sharing her perspective she’s found many others that relate to her story. This internal conflict led her to delve deeper into her heritage and find a way to reconcile both aspects of her identity.

"What am I? What is my heritage if neither of these cultures accept me as one of them? I've got to own my own heritage."

She found that one commonality between both sides of her heritage was a love for tea, or chai. She decided to incorporate this common thread into her art practice, envisioning a tea landscape that merged elements of her Indian and British heritages. This concept became an opportunity for Sam to create conversation-starter ceramic pieces to encourage people to engage in conversations with others who had similar experiences of cultural duality. Incorporating pieces created on the wheel, through hand building and through slip casting, Sam’s teascape represents her story of duality while also reflecting her growth as an artist. 

"This purpose is very specifically to have the conversation, to hold space, to share space. The conversation is going to be much more rich with everyone being themselves."

With a dedicated studio to work on her teascape, Sam has created a space that reflects her values and personal journey. The transformation of Samantha's studio space was an integral part of her artistic journey. She repainted the walls to create a more comfortable and welcoming atmosphere that resonated with her personal aesthetic. The addition of meaningful art on the walls, including vintage posters with bold messages, serve as a reminder for her to stay focused and persevere when faced with challenges. The intentional curation of her studio's environment has allowed her to create a space that fosters conversation and connection with those that enter. 

Sam draws inspiration from artists who embrace their own individuality and authenticity. She specifically mentions Papa Don’t Preach, who challenges traditional Indian silhouettes and infuses designs with vibrant colors and contemporary elements. This exploration of self-expression through a similar duality lens resonates with Sam and inspires her artistic expression.

Over time, Sam’s artistic style has evolved as she has gained a deeper understanding of her own identity and artistic mission. She sees true success in creating artwork that reflects personal stories and encourages meaningful connections. 

"My art practice is successful when I'm being honest and genuine. I'm producing things that feel like me and feel like the conversation I want to start."

Over the next few months, Sam will be working on finalising her teascape and is interested in hosting conversations with people that may feel a similar pull of duality from mixed cultural backgrounds. 

Learn more about Sam’s work and keep up with her teascape project online. 

Samantha Mathews works from River Studios. Located in West Melbourne, River Studios provides studio spaces at below-market rates. If you’re interested in joining the River Studios community, sign up to the waiting list to be notified of when spaces become available.