Platonic Intimacy: with Hayley Cranberry

photo by Aleck Venegas

image description: hayley rests her head on her arms atop a white table. next to her is one of her ceramic vessels, a lumpy bright lime green vessel with an ear-like handle. the handle is pierced and has a chain through it, which connects to the ceramic flower petal that is atop it.


Hayley Cranberry Small (She/her/hers)

is an urban planner, ceramicist, and disability justice advocate. She is the founder of Lutte Collective, a space and community for disabled and chronically ill artists.

Follow her website / Instagram (@hayleycranberry) / Lutte Collective (@luttecollective)

a white and a black female nude and holding hands while sitting on a grass

Platonic intimacy by definition takes different meanings and forms depending on the person. What does platonic intimacy look like to you?

I think of platonic intimacy as true love between someone and their friends and family. It is a feeling where you just feel so in sync with each other and are able to be vulnerable and show every part of yourself emotionally.

I feel a huge amount of intimacy with my dog, Greta. We co-exist in such an incredible way and sometimes it brings tears to my eyes how in love with each other we are! I love feeling that way with friends and family, and I do find it rare and special, just like romantic love.


Logo of disability justice ceramic artist collective Lutte Collective

lutte collective avatar.
image description: a royal blue circle with the same L hand in white. along the curve of the top right of the circle it says LUTTE COLLECTIVE.

Can you tell me Lutte Collective’s origin story, including where the name comes from?

Hayley: I started Lutte Collective in 2017 because I felt unable to connect with anyone about my chronic illness. My friends were there and great listeners, but nobody could understand my experiences firsthand, especially the trauma I went through as a sick teen. I knew zero communities for sick people and I had never met someone with the same disease as me. Now I know so many people with the same disease as me, in addition to so many people who identify as chronically ill or disabled or sick.

“Lutte” is French for struggle/fight, which doesn’t necessarily reflect how I feel about sickness and disability these days. I don’t like the disabled trope about being a “warrior” or “fighter.” But I do like the idea of a “collective fight” where a community works together to fight against the system for better and free health care.

What was the biggest challenge in building this community?

For Lutte, finding a voice that really made sense for the platform took me over a year. I used to write full-length prose pieces each month about each artist, but I am not a writer, and my pieces were not well-written, and I would agonize each month, stressing about each sentence and how I portrayed the artist. Now, I write interview questions and post the raw interview, letting the artist speak for themselves. 

How would you describe some of your most platonically intimate relationships?

light yellow colored texture sculpture artHayley Cranberry, ‘what do i do with all this love i have,’ 2020. stoneware, glaze, stainless steel.
image description: a pastel yellow vessel that has a hoop earring pierced through one of the floral looking petals.

I love a lot of people. I have an incredible amount of love to give.

Diana was probably the first person in my life who taught me the importance of stopping and considering emotions in a really slow and intentional way. She is incredibly sensitive -- and I don’t mean that negatively at all, what I mean is that she is intuitive and in touch. I find that the two of us are often very emotionally similar.

Tori and I practice the most sound communication I’ve ever experienced in a relationship. We are so clear with each other, and make it a huge point to reiterate things and reassure each other, if that’s what the other needs. Both of us are anxious people and require reassurance, and it’s incredibly soothing and beautiful to know someone is up for holding my hand and helping me experience real stability.

Greta is my dog, and I think we experience an unspoken amount of platonic intimacy. We are really so in love with each other. Coexisting with another species, while only communicating with touch and basic language, feels really special, and is not something I understood until I was a dog mom. She is my angel and teaches me so much every day about responsibility and true love.

Other people I have platonic, intimate relationships with include my mom, who is always there for me no matter what; my stepmother Susan who understands me very well;  and my beautiful friend Sylvie, who is far away in California but is the calmest, coolest, most collected and understanding person ever.

 Hayley Cranberry, ‘asleep with the lights on,’ on display at ‘have you ever met an angel,’ 2019. stoneware, glaze, stainless steel. photo by calvin stark.

image description: an off-white vessel with a hole in the middle at the top. the top is pierced with two silver hoops. there are two roses inside of this vessel.

How might platonic intimacy as you described above help us recontextualize our relationship to works of art and to the artist?

I don’t find art very often that seems to be about platonic intimacy,  friend love, or non-romantic love. When I do, I really appreciate it, and feel a connection to the artist that I might not have felt if their work was about romantic love or another topic. Everyone makes art about romantic love! Every movie, TV show, song is about romantic love! And hey, I love romantic love, and I have a lot of capacity for that as well. But art about non-romantic love is important, too, and I think it shows emotional maturity when someone is able to acknowledge that.

I find that there’s far less writings or research on platonic intimacy than I expected.

Were there particular personal experiences - either with people in your lives or materials like books, movies, or art - that inspired you to start thinking about it, or to think about it in a different way? 

Growing up, I was reliant on my best friends to teach me everything about adulthood. And oftentimes their moms, too. My mom was not my legal guardian and I didn’t have a mother figure who was willing to be vulnerable with me and teach me life lessons as a young adult. At a certain point, my best friends in middle school and high school became mothers to me, literally teaching me how to use a tampon and how to straighten my hair, how to feel when my crush hurt me, how to use makeup. At one point in high school, my friend Gena drove me to see my mom, who I hadn’t seen in years. My friend Sarah would drive me everywhere. I had such a deep connection with my friends at this age, and I think as I got older and after I moved to Brooklyn, this type of friendship became few and far between. I began to really appreciate the raw intimacy and love you find in friendships that feels so different from romantic love. 

[Left] Hayley Cranberry, ‘this is my body in pain,’ 2019. stoneware, glaze.

image description: a vase that resembles a body leaning over, possibly having abdominal pain. it is glazed in a glossy off-white crackled glaze.

[Right] Hayley Cranberry, 'phlebotic self-portrait', 2018. stoneware, glaze, rubber tourniquet, stainless steel, and plasticmedical needle and tubing.
image description: a vessel that has a red interior and white exterior with a clear plastic needleand tubing, and a blue rubber tourniquet tied around it, similar to one you might have tiedaround your arm when giving blood.

Your ceramic work offers vulnerability and often makes nods to the body--how does it relate to your grasp of the sick body?

A lot of my ceramic work takes one piece of my identity and hyperbolizes it. Oftentimes this has to do with the body. The body as a malleable object, the body as imperfection, the body’s continual regrowth, the body as an example of natural form and flow.

Sometimes I focus on the sick body: 'phlebotic self-portrait,' 'this is my body in pain,' and 'hot water bottle body.' But sometimes I focus just on my body, or any body, as a vessel:  'sitting naked on the couch eating pudding by myself,' 'i often mis-take my dreams for memories,' and 'woman in love.'

Hayley Cranberry, 'woman in love,’ 2020. stoneware, glaze.
image description: a black vase that has two tiers-- the top tier (after the stem) is much thinnerthan the bottom tier. it resembles a woman in an abstract way.

Ceramics have a ritualistic element to them. What new forms of intimacy are invented in the process?

Ceramics, both hand-building and throwing on the wheel, is a very ritualistic and ancient form of art, which is part of the reason I love it. One of the reasons I started working with clay is because of the tactility the medium offers. I have often felt disconnected from other mediums (photography, painting, drawing) and never found a medium I felt close with, or liked what I made, until I found clay. There is definitely an intimacy with clay and ceramic making. I prefer to work in silence and find that I get so extremely focused on texture, touch, and smell, and my senses, in general, are heightened when I am able to get into this hyper-focused state. Working with clay is very intimate and quite romantic, to be honest.

What new things are you trying out right now, in personal life or in your profession?

For 2021, I decided to stop taking commissions for my ceramics. Commissions kind of drain me, and I’d rather just make what I want to make and hope people like it. I really would rather look at ceramics as my art, which I don’t want to be stressful, rather than a career or something that pays my rent (it doesn’t, not even close, I barely break even). I also work full-time with geospatial data, which is entirely different from my artform. I generally keep the two separate, and always have.

In my personal life I am a very forward person. I always will be, but a lot of people are turned off by that. I have spent the past several years trying to come to terms with who I am and how I navigate love, and it’s a lot of work. I love myself, but it’s easy to feel discouraged when others don’t share the same sense of urgency to communicate transparently as I do. I am trying to be more gentle with myself and broaden my understanding of humans in general.


All images from artist Hayley Cranberry. 

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Check out her 

website / Instagram (@hayleycranberry) / Lutte Collective (@luttecollective)


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