Wednesday, November 18, 2009


A little while back Kenji and I did a workshop with the wonderful staff at our local child care centre. They were really keen to find out more about clay and to experiment with different ways they might be able to use it with the kids. We’re no experts in this field so it was really a collaborative approach between them and us, using their knowledge of kids and our knowledge of clay. One of the things we showed them was how to make simple bowls and vessels using a slab of clay and a slump/hump mould. They were quite taken with this process and so a couple of days ago I made them a whole bunch of plaster moulds they could use with the kids.

I have a love hate relationship with plaster. So much can go right with it, but so much can go wrong with it too. But today when I went down into the studio and saw all the finished moulds on my workbench it was all about the love. There is an indescribable quality to plaster that sometimes just takes my breath away. A day or two after it has been cast, before it is completely dry, it has this amazing sheen to it and reflects a beautiful soft light. Its cool and so smooth and clean and white and I just want to hold it against my cheek! In my recent musings on process I have been toying with some new ideas of working with plaster as the end, rather than simply as the means to an end.

But for now these smooth little beauties are off to a different fate!!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Birdy Beakers

I've also been putting those hands of mine to use making a new range of birdy beakers.

tweet tweet.

By hand

Speaking of hands, this is what I’ve been using them for lately. These works are part of an exhibition coming up at Cudgegong Gallery in Gulgong. The show is called A New Look – Functional Ceramics and has been curated by Janet Mansfield. Forty ceramicists from across Australia were invited to show a piece from our current production, but also to create a second work that ‘presages a new look’, a new direction or extension of an idea for the future. And this is mine.

I've been off on a bit of a thread, which I’ve mentioned a little in earlier posts over the last year, about the idea of process and how we imbue the objects we make with our own marks and rythms. I’m enjoying stepping away from how I usually work and discovering (well actually, its more a case of re-discovering) some of these other processes/rythms/materials and ways of making. We’ll see where it takes me.

The text/images on the bowls are extracts from my sketchbook, where I hurriedly scribble and scrawl my ideas for work. This mostly consists of lots of text, lots of arrows, lots of asterix’s, and the occasional (bad) drawing – the first part of the process of making for me.

The show opens November 20th until January 25th.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

My Hands

I used to have a real thing about my hands. They’re big hands. With big knuckles. And compared to the rest of me look very out of proportion. They just kind of dangle off the end of my long skinny arms! I used to be so self-conscious about them, but over the years I’ve learned to love them. I think I just needed to figure out what to do with them!

Right now I wish I had a few extra ones.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Porcelain in Perth

Its been a couple of years since I've made any of my recipe bowls. And after labouring over these ones I remember why I stopped! But I must admit that despite the time-consuming, finicky, nerve-wracking process, every time I pull one of these finished pieces out of the kiln I still get a little thrill and am amazed by the versatility of clay. Bloody marvellous stuff it is!

I’ve just sent five of these bowls over to an exhibition in Perth.  Each bowl is decorated with a poem or a recipe in the handwriting of some pretty amazing women in my family. I got quite sentimental as they sat there all together on my workbench, this little collection of bowls covered in the handwriting of sisters, aunts, mothers and grandmothers.  

My favourite part of the process is getting up close and personal with the intricacies and intimacies of the handwriting.  I find it fascinating as I zoom in and cut and paste and fiddle with the scans of their recipe books, letters and poems on my computer, noticing the little nuances each of them has, the way they underline a word (curly, straight, wispy, defined) the frequent use of exclamation marks, or lack of, the little messages and notes to would-be readers (“enjoy!!”) and the slants, curls and whirls of each woman’s hand.  I am always left with a strange (and lovely) sense of having spent time with them.

This time I was also left with a grumbling tummy after working on my mum’s coffee cheesecake recipe…oooh, its amaaaazing! Brings back childhood memories of dinner parties where she would make her famous lasagne followed by the cheesecake, the dining room table crowded with women with hair down to their bums and men with afros and fuzzy beards and flares (it was the 70s).  Us kids would just hang around till we got our feed of cheesecake and then nick off back to the rare luxury of staying up late and watching telly!

So, if you happen to be over in Perth you can check out this little collection at a show called “Highlights of Contemporary Australian Porcelain” at Gadfly Gallery, along with the work of Robin Best, Pippin Drysdale, Kirsten Coelho, Bruce Nuske and Jane Robertson. It opens this Friday (Sept 18th) and runs until October 11th

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Two little cups

wheel thrown porcelain with decals, 9cm tall

Friday, July 10, 2009

Kenji and I haven’t been able to give The Little People over at Sandwich Mountain as much attention as we’d like over the last little (well…er…quite long actually) while. So we’re very excited that they are finally off on another big adventure, this time down to Sydney for…(yeah yeah, how did you guess?) the Australian Ceramics Triennale. The whole gang of Little People (except a few on ‘assignment’ in Japan) will be converging en masse at Object Gallery, where the nice folk there will be taking them out and about around Sydney and the conference venues.  

And they haven’t wasted anytime in showing the little folk around. A few just spent a delightful sounding weekend up in the Blue Mountains checking out the Three Sisters (below) and having Devonshire tea at very fancy hotels. 

Kenji has also put together a very cute little clip of them that you can watch over at Sandwich Mountain.  We’ll be updating the blog as the pics from Sydney come in over the next few weeks. And if you are going to the conference, keep your eyes out for them! They’ll be hanging out at Object and surrounds until July 26th…..or longer if they’re having a nice time! 

Wednesday, July 8, 2009


I've just sent off these little jugs to the Pourers Exhibition that is being held at Object Gallery during the Ceramics Triennale

I quite liked the bird on a wire jug, so I gave it a whirl on a bowl….

and a wall tile...

...and an old thrown cup I found in a box downstairs (which I've yet to photograph).  I went bird-on-a-wire craaaazy.  

The Pourers show is an extravaganza of functional pouring vessels - jugs, tea pots, bottles, creamers, decanters, gravy boats etc etc - by 40 Australian ceramicists.  Far too numerous to name here, but you can read all about it here.  The show runs from July 11th - 28th. 

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Ceramic Revisions

Ceramic Revisions, another exhibition that's part of the plethora of shows going on during the Australian Ceramics Triennale, opened over the weekend. Some of my new yellow pigeons (above) winged their way down for it, as well as a new set of guns...

...and a few pieces from my Keep Calm and Carry On series.

The show is on at Brenda May Gallery in Waterloo, Sydney until July 26th, so please drop in if you're in the area.  More details on the show here and here.  And below are a couple of images of super works by fellow exhibitors Liz Stops and William Lungas. 

Liz Stops Home (2009) Porcelain, Charcoal, bone, recycled paper

William Lungas Arca-Type (2009) Ceramic tiles, black stained porcelain

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Enough about me...

Vicki Grima, Cool Ice porcelain bowls, 8-10cm

I'm very taken by these porcelain pinch pots by Vicki Grima - artist, teacher, editor, and now blogger.  Vicki says: I enjoy making pinch pots. I like the process; I like the fact that my fingers leave marks on the pot. When you hold a pot, you can feel the process that went into making it. Because pinch pots tend to be small, they can be held in the palm of a hand - they are personal pots, and each bears my imprint." 

I'm relating to that at the moment. You can see more of her work on her website, and learn more about what she's reading, eating and making at her brand new blog! 

And some more stunning work by Kenji (below).  Showing at Andrew Baker Gallery here in Brisbane with Pamela See and Deborah Walker until July 4th. Opens tonight. 

Thursday, June 11, 2009

White Heat

Well I’m all in a bit of tiz really. Work coming out of my ears at the moment, which is all good and lovely and you’ll hear no complaints from me about that, but my head is in a spin trying to meet deadlines and making sure things are where they should be when they should be. 

One thing I can now cross off the list-to-do is the Australian Ceramics Association exhibition White Heat , which opens tonight at the Manly Art Gallery & Museum in Sydney.  The show has been curated by Dr Julie Bartholomew and is part of a huge swag of shows opening over the next month in conjunction with the upcoming Australian Ceramics Triennale. 

One of my exploding gun plates (above) is included in the show, and I'm keeping some very fine company including my very own local buddies Pru Morrison (image below - Malcolm Turnbull, Peter Costello and Joe Hockey I believe?!!), Kenji Uranishi (image below), Virginia Jones and Kathy Keys. Nice to see such a strong QLD contingent. You can read more about the premise of the show and the artists selected here.  The show opens today but there is also a shindig being held (July 19th) during the conference itself. So drop in if you can and have a cocktail (or twelve) for me!

Pru Morrison

Kenji Uranishi

More details on the conference and the exhibitions, speakers and demonstrators can be found at the conference website and the conference blog (administered by Shannon Garson). 

Monday, June 8, 2009

Going Native

We've been doing a lot of work in our garden over the last few months, clearing out the silly plants (ie: ones that require lots of water) and replanting with more sensible ones, mostly natives.  Its been so interesting, despite having grown up around many of these trees, learning more about them - which ones attract butterflies and birds, which ones you can eat or make tea from, which ones are drought resistant, which ones are native to our specific area etc. 

I find myself looking so much more closely at what is growing around me.  So many of the native trees flower in winter and our neighbourhood is just full of these flowering beauties at the moment. 

Winter round these parts really does rock. 

Friday, June 5, 2009

Bigger Uns?

Doesn't quite have the same ring as Little Uns.  These bowls are a bit of a follow on from my Little Uns series. I'm upping the scale a little (yes, they are a huge 9cm tall!) and playing around with forms and the natural colours and tones of the clay bodies. I've really been enjoying making these pieces - pushing and prodding and rubbing and poking, instead of pouring and polishing. I've been using my slipcasting moulds and a slab of clay, slowly working it into the mould, letting the process show a little more. I have to stop myself from smoothing out all the marks and folds and creases and fingerprints. Old habits die hard. But I couldn't help myself and just had to give them a quick once over with the wet and dry after I'd fired them. Just to give them that nice velvety finish....

They feel nice in my hand - heavy and bumpy. This is quite novel for me. I think its working as a counter balance to the hands-off approach of my waterjet cut pieces of late too. Getting my hands back in the clay. 

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Ceramic Journeys

I first started messing around with clay way back in 1996.  I did a night class in wheel throwing and was struck by the proverbial bolt of lightning from the sky. Wham bam. I quit my job as an English teacher and enrolled to study ceramics at the Southbank Institute of TAFE. I spent 5 years studying there and soaked up every bit of information and all the skills I could from the amazingly talented and committed staff who, even years after I left, continue to support me in my ceramic endeavours. To this day I frequently refer to my TAFE text books and handouts, and to all the experiments and tests and notes I took during that time. It was the best grounding I could have asked for. 

So its really lovely to be part of the Ceramic Journeys exhibition that is opening tomorrow night at Fusions Gallery.  Curated by Ronelle Clark, one of my first ever teachers, the exhibition showcases the work of a number of Southbank Tafe graduates, alongside the work of current students. It really highlights the diverse approaches to the medium and the varying pathways people have taken.

I popped in to the gallery earlier this week to help set up my work and it was like a mini-reunion! Within minutes everyone had slipped into technical jargon and chat about what everyone else was doing and making.  So i'm looking forward to the opening to catch up with more old friends and faces. In the face of ever diminishing ceramics departments and facilities, being part of this show has also reminded me how lucky I am to have been able to study there when I did, and with whom I did - both students and teachers. 

The show opens tomorrow, June 5th until June 20th, and the exhibitors include Terry Bouton, Irene Brown, Ky Curran, Denise Douglas, Tim Fry, Shannon Garson, Grant Hodges, Creina Moore, Pru Morrison, Pattie Murray, Isaac Patmore, Julie Shepherd, Emma Trigg, Rikke Weibel and myself. 

Monday, April 20, 2009

On a brighter note...

Aaaah, the long awaited-for chill is in the air! Every year I look forward to this change of season, the crisp coolness in the air that heralds the beginning of the beautiful Brisbane winter.  The sky is bluer, the sun loses its summer harshness and the humidity starts dropping nice and low. Unlike summer, when my energy flags and the humidity makes me feel sluggish and slow, winter puts a bounce in my step and clears my head.  I’ve been waiting for this! Cups of tea in the morning taste nicer and seem more ceremonial as the wisps of steam curl up and my hands are warmed from the (Kirsten Coehlo) cup.  And it seems that whenever this time of year comes around I am drawn to blue and yellow in my work.  It’s the blue blue skies and the softer sun I think. 

I’m working on another group of homeing pigeons for an upcoming show and they are all in yellow. So I’ve spent the last few weeks scouring op shops, flea markets and antique stores for just the right plates.  Despite the rather disappointing closure of my favourite (Sandgate) antique store and my most yielding op shop (Lutwyche) I’ve still managed to score a few most excellent finds that should do the trick! 

Friday, April 17, 2009

Not-so-good Friday

I get very excited about public holidays as they are rare times when I get to work in the studio for longer than an hour and a half at a time! So excited was I last (Good) Friday about having the Engineer home on a week day to look after the little lady that I had stayed up late the night before just to get everything in my studio ready for a big glaze-off. Benches cleaned, oodles of pots awaiting, containers of water, sponges, underglaze pencils and brushes laid out, glazes sieved and ready to rock. 

Down I went and glazed and glazed and glazed and glazed. It’s a fiddly job and I'm very particular about it. My patchwork range of beakers in particular have detailed little squares that get painted in by hand in a couple of different glazes, tiny little holes that need to be filled in so light can get through but liquid can’t get out.  Its probably the most finicky and tedious process of all, and it’s a job I just like to get out of the way really.

So how good did I feel when I resurfaced after a good few hours with shelves full of perfectly glazed pieces ready to pack into the kiln? Pretty damn good! That is until I glanced down at my glaze bucket as I was hanging up my apron and realised I had glazed EVERYTHING in the wrong glaze. 

Oh MY there were a LOT of four letter expletives tumbling out of my mouth let me tell you! My precious precious studio time so horribly wasted! I almost cried! I sat with my head in my hands and then slowly placed each and every piece into buckets full of water to soak the glaze off so I could start ALL OVER AGAIN!!! Groan. 

Not-so-good Friday!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Cressida and I

Cressida Campbell, Bowls, 2001

I spent Monday afternoon installing my work at the QUT Art Museum where a selection of pieces will be on display for the next two months.  QUT is one of my favourite Brisbane galleries.  They always have such interesting shows and cut a perfect balance between the contemporary and the historical.  Their team of curators are really on the ball and also have their antennaes finely tuned to craft and design. We like that. 

The gallery itself was closed for the day for installation, so I had the
Cressida Campbell show all to myself. Blown away is putting it mildly. As I wandered from room to room my jaw dropped lower and lower until by the third room and the work Eucalyptus Forest it really did hit the floor. Her woodblock prints of the interiors of houses, still lifes, urban Sydney and Australian landscapes are so skillfully and beautifully executed - the exquisite details in each print, the mottled colours, the texture of the prints, ever so slightly raised but giving the pieces such depth, the way she carves subtly into the surface of the plywood she prints on, the adaptation of a typical Japanese technique to truly Australian circumstances and subject matter...oh I could go on and on and on!! Its been a long time since i've been so affected by an exhibition.  I had to take a quick nap on the couch to recover before resuming the installation. 

Cressida Campbell, Nasturtiums, 2002, woodblock

A show not to be missed. It finishes April 19th. And you may as well have a gander at my work while you're in there! It's up until May 31st.