Meet the Artist Who Created 100 Ceramic Bottles in 100 Days

Ever felt like just quitting whatever you are doing – most likely your job – and restarting your life? This bold thought can cross our minds every now and then, even though most of us would never put it into practice. Ceramic designer Anna Whitehouse had the guts to step out of her routine and devote herself to her passion last winter. We’re glad she did, or else we probably wouldn’t have been able to enjoy exploring her resulting project, 100bottles100days.

100 Bottles in studio

Anna spontaneously decided to spend each of the first 100 days of 2018 creating a ceramic bottle. Leaving behind exhibitions of her prior work and her commitment as a teacher, she overcame her habit of over-thinking things and instead followed the mantra “Just try it and see”. The result is a diverse collection of beautifully designed bottles, each one of them representing Anna’s numerous creative ideas.

Explore Anna’s thoughts and feelings behind 100bottles100days in our interview.

THE PLUS: First of all, how did the whole idea for 100bottles100days come up in the first place?
Anna Whitehouse:
I was sat on my sofa in the week between Christmas and New Year 2017, surrounded by my sketchbooks and wondering why I had not yet pursued the ideas I’d been working on for the last six years. Right then and there I made the decision to take a year to fully concentrate on developing a new body of work. I wanted to quickly explore the sketchbooks full of ideas and so the concept of a bottle a day formed.

TP: Where did these ideas come from?
Back in 2012 I had been given access by National Museums Scotland to their archives, full of their natural history specimens. I was able to speak to the curators and I loved seeing these repeating patterns and textures across a variety of species. I chose to explore these in porcelain, aiming to create an object that invited curiosity and a child-like wonder, as the viewer tries to work out what it is.


TP: How did this transpire into a creation process?
I could make a press moulded ‘blank canvas’ bottle every morning and then choose something from my sketchbook to try. I could have made flat, test tile experiments, but I wanted to explore the textures on a 3D, curved object, as that would give me a much better indication of how my ideas would develop into a new collection.

TP: You mentioned posting the bottles publicly made you accountable. Did it take a lot of dedication to not skip one single day? Was there a point where you felt like you wanted to stop?
I was initially going to do 365 bottles- 1 a day for the whole year, I’m so glad my partner talked me out of that! There were many occasions I wished I hadn’t started. This occurred usually at 1am, when I knew I still had a good few hours of work ahead, then get maybe six hours of sleep before getting up to start the next one!

100bottles Group 3

TP: What kept you from giving up?
If I hadn’t been recording the process on Instagram, I may have given up those nights and gone to bed. But it reminded me I had made this commitment and I needed to stick at it – not for anyone else, but for my own practice. 

TP: Did you ever have to cheat, for example making a bottle in advance?
No, although the thought did cross my mind sometimes! It did feel like it was cheating somehow and also the design often relied on the thickness of clay. If I was carving it needed to be thicker, if moulding onto the surface, thinner. I planned each bottle in the morning and made the appropriate blank for my chosen experiment.

Dat 44 Cat climbs cheese plant

TP: You mentioned each bottle records a moment in time. Do you remember making each one of them?
There are a few days that are very vivid, but the names I gave them – this always happened that day – were to remind me they weren’t supposed to be finished pieces. If I had spent time trying to give them an appropriate name, they would have instantly become a “piece”. Then I would have become more precious about them all being beautiful instead of taking the risks I did. 

TP: Can you give us some insight into your emotions during the work?
There was always this underlying energy of ‘just try it and see’. The reason I wanted to push ideas quickly was because previous development had been slow. I was over-thinking constantly, hence having sketchbooks full of ideas and very few finished pieces in six years! One bottle a day meant it didn’t matter if I wanted to try chopping into a form with a hacksaw and it wasn’t successful. There was always another tomorrow and, importantly, I would have learnt something.

Day 3 Chapped lips

TP: What is your favourite bottle from the 100bottles100days project, and why?
It changes constantly! Currently it is Day 44: Cat climbs cheese plant, as I’ve been doing a lot of carving over the last few weeks and this bottle is being used for reference. I wanted to explore carving on multiple planes, not just the initial surface of the bottle, and this experiment allowed me to work out how to do that.

TP: Any special or unexpected incidence during the project?
Probably the huge reaction it was getting on social media! I honestly never thought the wider world would see them. They were my weird little daily experiments, sketching in clay, to inform future work. The fact they have become a collection in their own right is fascinating and not something I would ever have imagined.

Press mould

TP: What have you learned, looking back at 100bottles100days?
That risk-taking is 100 percent worth it and to trust in the process. Also, how productive you can be in 100 days!

TP: Did you change as a person from Day 1: Shipwrecks and Scampi to Day 100: A well-deserved gin?
I think all creatives suffer from self-doubt which, when teamed with procrastination and second-guessing, can become debilitating. Over the 100 days I became more confident in my ideas, skills and ability to produce good work. I was working with clay every day, rather than having 80 percent of administration and 20 percent of making, which was my practice before. Since then I’ve put my foot down, making sure I spend more time with my hands in clay than on a keyboard!

100bottles Original Instagram shots
Day 7 Old friends
Day 8 Harry's dragon
Day 58 Giant pollens giant problems
Day 61 Best laid plans
Day 89 The Green Room
Day 98 Bernard! Bernard! Look!
Day 92 snowy peaks
Day 24 Good bacon and a cunning plan
Day 10 Plaster disaster narrowly avoided
Base of bottle
Photos by David Lindsay