Artist Spotlight: Viviana of Mud Witch Ceramics

POSTED BY: KAYLA CONYER

Various speckled mugs by Mudwitch

If there is one thing this chilly San Francisco summer could use, it’s a cup of warm tea. Enter Mud Witch, a new line of ceramic mugs by local Japanese/Mexican artist Viviana Matsuda, which are carried at both our Divisadero and Noe Valley locations. Viviana’s mugs embrace their unique shapes and curvature, which allow your hand to nestle in just the right spot. The daughter of a potter, and a longtime dabbler in various artistic mediums, Viviana is creating pieces that explore our relationship with the earth's natural elements.

KC: You got your start in ceramics as a way to cope with the passing of your father, who was a ceramist himself. Did you ever think of yourself as a creative person in any medium prior to that?

VM: Yes, when I was little my dad actually nicknamed me “the creator” because I was always making something. I come from a very creative family. My grandma on my Japanese side worked as a seamstress and was always super crafty. Every summer we would visit her in Seattle for a couple of weeks and she would teach me origami and other Japanese crafts. Then we would come back every fall and I would spend time showing my friends the origami balloon I learned how to make or a box shaped like a flower. Growing older I stayed crafty. The goal was to learn how to make everything. I dabbled in sewing, incense making, upholstery, natural dying and more. I just really enjoy making things with my hands and using my designer eye to make things very "Vivi".

Viviana (left), Earthenware pots in the wild (right)

KC: Coming up with a name for a business is often much harder than creating the products themselves! Where did the name Mud Witch originate?

VM: I wanted a name that described the feeling of forming pieces out of the earth. As I learned to throw I realized that working with clay is a relationship. You can't push it into doing anything it doesn't want to do, you need to compromise with it and give it respect. All clays are different and they all have their own personalities.

Once I learned to properly respect the clay, throwing became like magic. I threw all sorts of curvy bottles and bulbous shapes while testing the limits. After a pretty productive semester, all that learning led to a ton of pots filling my house. So I sat down in my kitchen, looked at my pots and tried to think of a name. Looking at all the speckled and sandy spots in some of my pieces, I felt very grateful that I could have the opportunity to create something out of the earth. "How witchy," I said to myself. Then MUD WITCH came to be.

Photo by Shaine Drake.

KC: How long have you been creating and when did you decide to turn what was originally a therapeutic hobby into a business?

VM: I've been doing ceramics since 2016, but I have been around it all my life. Towards the end of 2016, Voldemort, I mean what's his face, became president and since I was using ceramics to de-stress, well let's just say it was an extremely productive semester. After running out of storage I thought I should start selling them. Imagining my craft as a career was always a dream. There's nothing like running your own business. When I work hard I work for me, and I love it.

KC: Pottery is such a difficult skill to master as many elements go into the process from throwing, to firing, to never quite knowing how glazes will turn out until the end. Do you find that the process hinders your creative ability at all, or do you enjoy the uncertainty of it?

VM: Man, pottery really relays some of life's messages. You can work really hard at something and it can turn out like trash. You just gotta love it how it is or move on. Glazing reminds me of the saying "in life there no guarantees. You just do what you can and hope for the best.” It's fine for me because I'm a very laid back, learn to love the flaws kinda lady, however, it's a whole other world when you're making things for other people.

KC: Your creations often have an earthy natural feel to them. What things inspire the form, color, and texture of your pieces?

VM: I enjoy the natural texture and color of the clay. We have all interacted with these colors and textures before as children and for me seeing the sand and grog triggers positive memories of childhood. I remember playing with sand at the beach with my family or visiting my relatives in Mexico and being enamored by all the red clay pottery

As for form, people inspire my pieces, more specifically the body positive movement that is happening right now. My pots are chubby, tall, cute, brown, black, tan, freckled and beautiful in their diversity.

KC: Where do you go to get re-invigorated and inspired?

VM: You're gonna laugh, but usually, I go to the produce market. The produce section is like sensory overload. The shapes, colors, and textures that nature makes always amazes me. Green striped lemons that are pink on the inside, how kooky! Heirloom tomatoes... are you from space? Romanescco, you are so complex and beautiful. It’s like visiting an art museum for me.

Photos by Dave Medal

KC: You mainly create beautiful mugs and planters. Are there any future projects you’re working on that you’re excited about?

VM: I'm really excited about doing more sculptural pieces and maybe some hand building, I’m also doing some exciting collaborations with other artists this fall and winter. 

You can find Mud Witch products for sale at both our brick and mortar stores on Divisadero or in Noe Valley, as well as online.