Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Pattern Recognition

At the beginning of last year I was part of an exhibition called Pattern Recognition, curated by Andrea Higgins and Rahna Devenport and shown at Craft QLD and Object Gallery in Sydney. It was inspired by William Gibson’s book Cool Hunting, and looks at the ways in which Australian and New Zealand artists are using pattern in object making. It’s been a fantastic show to be involved in, and its life just keeps getting longer and longer – it’s recently been up to Rockhampton
and Gladstone Regional Galleries, and just received funding to tour NSW, QLD, South Australia and Western Australia. And little old me gets to tour with it and babble on about my work and my process! Bit excited about that! Love an interstate jaunt I do! First cab off the rank is the Noosa Regional Gallery, opening this Friday night (Feb 2nd), and myself and curator Andrea Higgins will also be giving a talk on Saturday afternoon at 1pm. (And then I’m going straight to the beach!) The artists in the show are Dorothy Filshie, Joanna Bone, Helen Britton, Ann-Maree Hanna, David Trubridge, Damien Frost, Sara Hughes, Mavis Ngallametta, and moi. There’s some really beautiful work in this show so if anyone is in the area pop in. A bit more info on the show can be found here and here.

(images: top left Dorothy Filshie, top right David Trubridge, above left Mel Robson, above right Joanna Bone, and Damien Frost above) NB: Artist talk is at 1pm, not 10am as I originally posted! Oops. At least I get a sleep in now.

Monday, January 29, 2007


It is said that patience is a virtue. And ooohhhh I wish I had some! I am so incredibly impatient, which in my line of work really isn’t a good trait!! Edgar (our unofficial studio assistant) is always rousing on me…be patient girrrrrl!! he says in his lovely thick spanish accent, as I don my gloves and pull hot pieces out of the kiln far earlier than I should…as I prod and poke pieces out of the moulds before they are really ready….as I pace up and down waiting for the kiln to reach temperature…. as I fall over my own feet trying to do 5 different things at once! It’s partly because I just get so damn excited about it all - I just want to see it!!! I want to see the finished piece!! I want to see if it worked, if my idea will actually manifest itself the way I hoped. I want to see them all lined up on my shelves in neat little rows! I want to see them packed in boxes and sent off so I can cross them off my list and have a damn holiday!!

But it also means I break things, drop things, crack things, damage my kiln and get myself into occasional spots of trouble with deadlines that usually means MORE work not less!! Even when I know what I am doing might result in disaster, I still do it…it’ll be ok, I tell myself…it’s not really that bad to pull an eggshell fine porcelain cup out of the kiln at 400 degrees celsius…and to be honest I actually have remarkably few breakages and crackages (yes, I know that’s not a real word but I like it) given my dare devil studio habits. Despite its supposed fragility, clay is really a very strong, forgiving, versatile and hardy medium. I love it. And it loves me. Every now and then, however, it likes to give me little reminders as to who’s boss, a gentle reminder that the only reason it doesn’t crack and break all the time is because IT doesn’t want to…..I tend to keep those things that go wrong because I find them quite intriguing. A cup that has cracked straight down the middle gives you an insight into the object that you normally wouldn’t get to see – the clay glaze interface (now that’s getting very technical sounding isn’t it…) is where the clay and the glaze fuse or bond. It is a little chemical masterpiece, and things like this fascinate me endlessly. So you see, my impatience is a GOOD thing... I LEARN from it...I get INSPIRED by it...so it's ok for me to keep being like this...

(if you look very closely at the picture above you too can share in the joy of the clay glaze interface....a little hard to see with white porcelain and a clear glaze)

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

tag central

I've been tagged twice in one day! Does that mean I have to fess up double the amount?!! I think not!! Until yesterday I had never even heard of the concept of tagging, and now Diana Fayt and Anna Davern have both tagged me within a few hours of eachother. Yep, tag central. So from what I can gather, when you get tagged you have to write a list of 6 things about yourself that people may not know. So, here goes.......

1. I once went dressed as Brett Whiteley to a costume party. Actually, there was a remarkable resemblance when that blonde afro wig went on)
2. I am addicted to rice cakes - yes, those things that look, feel and taste like polystyrene. I don't know what it is but I eat a packet a day and seriously crave them.
3. When I was a kid I was ambidexterous. Sister Christopher used to smack me whenever I wrote with my left hand. But I was a rebellious child and am now very left-handed. I'm cranky to this day that such a useful skill was whacked out of me.
4. I once won 1st prize in a banana eating competition at the Murwillumbah Banana Festival.
5. I always wanted to be a foreign diplomat. But I decided to take a year off to go travelling before applying to the Department of Foreign Affairs to begin my illustrious career in the corridors of diplomacy! I stayed away much longer than that, became a teacher, and then an artist. No regrets!
6. I don't like cats. (people think I'm so nasty when I admit that. Sorry, but they drive me nuts)

Ok. That's me all tagged up. Whose next? Sorry girls....Rebeccah, Liana and Florence....

Karin Eriksson

Thanks to Karin Eriksson for the mention on her blog this week! Karin is a fellow decal-ophile and uses them on her beautifully thrown cups and bowls. Her pieces have a lovely warmth about them, even though she lives and works in what looks like the coldest place on earth at the moment!! The glazes she uses are just yummy, and there is a lovely balance I think betweeen the contemporary and the traditional in her pieces. And luckily for me some of her work has made it all the way from Sweden to lil ole Brisvegas!

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Watermelon Angel

The Watermelon Angel visited me yesterday. Just when I thought i was going to die from the heat and humidity in our little shed, she appeared before me, like a vision, with a container of lovely cold fresh watermelon straight from her fridge. Phew! Just in the nic of time! (thanks Amanda!)

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Black is black...

Edgar is a spanish gardener who often comes and hides out in our studio to escape the beating sun and sticky humidity of Brisbane summer. He has an insatiable curiosity about what we all do in our little clay shed, and bit by bit he is becoming our unofficial studio assistant! He likes to sing, often in Spanish, which is just lovely for us. The other day he broke into song and I was instantly transported back to my childhood…

We lived out in the sticks and my sisters and I, and our neighbours (3 girls the same ages as us), often had to come up with creative ways to spend our time in the absence of shops, movies, libraries, people and other distractions and entertainments. We used to put on concerts that everyone from miles around would come to. It was the biggest event in the Wardrop Valley calendar! We would practice our dances and songs and mini-plays for weeks; we’d tramp kilometres around the whole valley visiting all our neighbours to remind them of the big day and flog off raffle tickets for the dodgy patchwork quilts we would make; we’d raid our square dancing neighbours attic that was full of dusty old square dancing dresses, hula skirts and all kinds of (really weird now that I think about it) costumes for our grand performances; we’d fight over who got to wear the best frock and who would get the lead in each performance. The day of the concert the same square dancing neighbour would drive her ute into our back yard, drop the sides and voila! We had a stage! The crowds would start arriving, we’d be as excited as hell, make sure everyone had a glass of homemade lemonade (which they had to pay for by the way…don't get nothin for free in this world!) and the show would begin….

Black it’s black….I want my baaaaby back….grey it’s grey…ever since she went away ooh ooh…what can I dooooooo…cause I-I-I-I-I-I -I’m feeling blue…”

6 kids aged between 6 and 14 jumping around on the back of a ute in ridiculous dresses miming a Los Bravos song! Oh dear! Things like that have just gotta have an impact on you!! Anyway, that was the song Edgar burst into, and it sure took me back!


Since starting this blog I have gradually been finding my way around this whole new world, discovering and making contact with other ceramic artists and potters who are blogging also. I really love peeking into the process and inspirations of others and find it fascinating to see how people in the same area as me work. All very differently but all very interestingly! I've started a list of some of these blogs and websites and will hopefully keep adding to them as I stumble across more. Diana Fayt (images above and below) is one of these folks, and her blog One Black Bird gives a really lovely and entertaining insight into the joys and inspirations, trials and tribulations, of life in her studio. She has a wonderful way with words, and her work is absolutely beautiful!! There was lots of ooohing and aaahing when I came across her work!!

Friday, January 19, 2007

Ceramics for Breakfast

Bea sent through this image of George Watson's winning design in the Design Boom Ceramics for Breakfast competition. Its a slip cast bone china toaster that really does cook your toast! There's an (incredibly) detailed explanation of how it actually does it here, and some pics and info on the other entries here (some great stuff!)

6 shades of beige

It’s a grey day here in Brisvegas, just the kind of light I like. Because the work I make is often very fine porcelain, it is greatly affected by light. The same piece can look so different over the course of a day depending on the changes in light. This grey muted light is my favourite. It seems to bring out the translucency in a very soft way. Bright sunlight can make the pieces look amazingly thin and translucent, but they can also look a bit blown out, over exposed. This soft light is my favourite. I often wander around my house just checking out what different pieces of my work look like at different times and photographing them (yes, I am an exciting woman)!!It’s research of sorts, and also a great way to procrastinate and just mooch around the house under the comforting illusion that I am actually working!

Sunday, January 14, 2007


Today was one of those days when stuff just falls into place. After a crappy week feeling really stuck with a project I am working on, I woke early with my mind abuzz. I brewed myself a nice cup of coffee, drank it from my favourite Alex Watson cup (above), went downstairs where I had pieces of the said project laid out on a big table, sat and stared at them for a bit while the coffee kicked in, moved a few things around, swore to myself, and then BANG! There it was! The answer to what was bugging me about the work. I tell ya, that is the best feeling in the world!

The process of developing work for an exhibition always surprises me. I always get to a point (particularly as deadlines loom!) where no matter how much I think, turn it around, read, write, draw, make… it just feels like it’s not coming together. I start to get anxious….start to stress out…panic that this time it’s just not going to work…and then there it is! It’s the same every time, and you would think I would learn to relax and trust the process, but there is always this period of anxiety just before things fall into place. I guess it’s a necessary part of my process and if I did relax about it and trust that it would come together perhaps it just might not! It seems like that period of stress is what produces the result, the adrenalin fires up another part of the brain that swings into action to save the day! Ridiculous! Anyway, I’m just bloody glad it happened today and I can relax again!!

I am always interested in the way people work, in their process. I don’t mean that in the sense of how they technically create something, but more in how the mental and the physical processes interact. I have a friend who sits around and seemingly does nothing whilst I am madly making making making, and then just when you think she is never gonna make the deadline she just pulls something fabulously resolved out of thin air. (oh and I hate her for it!!). But that is the way she works. She thinks very deeply about it, works everything out in her mind before making anything, and then just does it. Whereas I process it all as I make. I have a vague vision of what I want in the end, I have ideas about what I want the work to say, but it is the steps in the making process that tell me where to go next. I just start making and let it all unravel as I go, let it gradually reveal itself. This often doesn’t happen right until the end, sometimes only days before an exhibition! Thus the stress out periods! As you can imagine, I sometimes struggle with projects that require you to say exactly what it is you are going to make from the outset and lock you in to that! Or when you need to have images ready months in advance for a catalogue or invitation! It kills me! It’s killing me now!!

But there are also times when things just flow, when ideas abound and the possibilities seem endless, when the kiln is just a glowing ball of goodness, those rare times when you marvel at your own genius (ha!!). Oh it’s all a bit of fun really!

The cups above are by Alex Watson. They are my absolute favourites and the brown one is the one I was drinking from when the epiphany happened. More on favourite cups - and Alex Watson - soon. The other image is mine. (geez, I'm blogging like a maniac this weekend! Somebody stop me!)

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Some recent work

I went on a bit of a making bender just before christmas to get out these new pieces. They are small porcelain wall boxes - hollow boxes with a small hole in the back that slip over a nail, hook or screw. They work like little canvases on the wall. They went down a treat and I'm going to be making new ranges of them regularly. The images used on the pieces above are a handrawn image of mine, my mothers pumpkin scone recipe and the sheet music of "oh suzannah" (oh don't you cry for me...for I've gone to Alabama with a banjo on my knee....)! I've never really been one for using much colour in my work, but there is a shift occurring. Colour is calling me....

Back to Nature

Now that's what I call a tent!

(Unfortunately this picture was sent to me without the details but i'll update it when I track them down)
Update: tent designer is mat&jewski (thanks Bea)

Friday, January 12, 2007

Ms Gee

Donna Gee is a Brisbane artist who paints the most delightfully poetic pictures. There is something in her work that reminds me of Nara Yoshitomo, who I wrote about below. A similar sense of the poetic, a bit of melancholy, and something else, perhaps just a little bit dark, that belies the sweet and innocuous subject matter. The image above is a painting based on her aunties. Just after she had painted it, I walked into her studio and it just took my breath away. Check out more of her work here.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Painting for Joy!

The QUT Art Museum recently held an exhibition of contemporary Japanese painting called Painting for Joy. It included Nara Yoshitomo, whose work I really enjoy. I have a wall in my house covered in his prints. He paints what at first look like sweet wide-eyed little children in a kind of manga or anime style, but on closer inspection many of them are carrying knives and saws, smoking cigarettes and looking very grumpy and evil indeed! They are sweet, funny, sad and disturbing all at once! The innocent child with the seemingly adult qualities of evil and apprehension!

When I first went to university (many moons ago!) I did a degree in Asian studies and majored in Japanese language and culture. When I graduated I went and lived in Osaka for a year to teach English, study Japanese and drink lots of beer. Ceramics was nowhere on my radar in those days. Unbelievably, the whole thing passed me by! I did come home with a lovely teapot some friends gave me for my 21st, but apart from that it just didn't register. But I guess somehow it must have been filtering through, and when I did eventually wake up and make the coffee cup, Japanese ceramics and the Japanese aesthetic had a very big influence on me, and still does. I still find myself very drawn to Japanese art, both traditional and contemporary.

Nara Yoshitomo also makes these great plates (well, they're plate-like) - he gets an extra tick for that! I'm obsessed by plates at the moment. I keep going to op shops and antique stores and buying plates. There's a new work developing there somewhere....