In a bright, whitewashed studio in Marrickville, in Sydney’s inner west, Hayden Youlley creates tableware that is a harmonious mix of beauty and function.
Youlley’s series ceramics entitled Paper look so much like crumpled paper that it’s almost a surprise to feel the heft of porcelain in your hands when you pick up one of the beautiful bowls.
The seemingly fragile, creased paper form of the Paper tableware, which Youlley has captured in robust porcelain, illustrates the ceramicist’s preoccupation with texture and form. “The Paper series is about using raw porcelain to create a tactile experience,” he explains. It’s the contrast between the smooth porcelain and the complex patterns of light, shade and texture created by the paper’s creases that invites study and touch.
Youlley has created two versions of the series. The bowls, plates and cups of the seven-piece colour collection feature a delicate, hand-painted coloured lip, while the white Paper collection includes a vase, a salad bowl and a platter, the most recent addition. “I finished prototyping that one a few weeks before Christmas and it has been flying out the door since,” he says. His latest project is a collaboration with a lighting store to create an LED lighting series of pieces from Paper.
His second collection, Tessellate, is a bold exploration of geometric forms. A modular series featuring triangular, square and pentagonal pieces, the Tessellate tableware fits together in an endless array of configurations.
While the aesthetic achievements of his collections are substantial – the delicate fragility of Paper and defining geometry of Tessellate – function is paramount in Youlley’s work.
One of the most satisfying aspects of working with ceramics, he says, is “the simple enjoyment I get from using a piece of my own work to eat breakfast every morning and knowing that there are more and more people who appreciate and enjoy my pieces too.”
Youlley studied at the College of Fine Arts at UNSW, and in his second year took a punt and decided to major in ceramics, despite never having worked with clay. “The endless possibilities malleable clay offered to explore notions of surface, scale and volume really sparked my interest,” he says.
It was a bold move that proved to be an inspired decision. “Once I started working with clay, I realised straight away that it appealed not only to my fascination with materials and process but also to my sense of independence as a designer,” he says. “It’s the only medium I have worked with that I can use to make a product by doing each step in the process myself, from design and prototype to realising and manufacturing.”
In 2013 Youlley was awarded an ArtStart grant by the Australia Council, a program designed to provide financial assistance to recent graduates of the creative arts who are making the transition from studying to establishing a professional career. It was a massive highlight, he says.
“That support allowed me to try new ways of marketing that would have been otherwise financially prohibitive,” he says. The grant paid for professional photography, a new website and participation in his first trade show, Design Made Trade.
“I love the great design scene and within that the amazing ceramics community in Sydney,” he says. “Every ceramicist and potter I have met here has been amazingly talented and supportive.”