Ceramicist Milly Dent has released two small new collections titled, Sora and Dango Gem, developed after a three-month artist residency in Arita on Kyushu Island, the birthplace of porcelain in Japan.
With support from the Australian Council for the Arts, Dent spent her time in Japan learning and working at a historic kiln, Kouraku Gama, under the direction of a fifth-generation porcelain expert. “Because my material of choice is porcelain, I wanted to further explore its origins. I travelled to Arita with the intention to gain a better understanding of the material’s history, its production and its varied uses in the town which had been working with the material for over 400 years.”
The Sora (which means “sky” in Japanese) collection references traditional Japanese design and includes a cup, flute and saucer. Crafted with fine Arita porcelain, vessels are sandblasted by mixing air pressure with the abrasive sand, resulting in the exterior glaze of the cups being slowly worn away creating a soft, textured surface.
Colourways for the vessels were inspired by the seasonal changes Dent witnessed during her time in Arita. “I watched it move through seasons of wintery grey-blues, to cherry blossom soft pinks and then to a luscious green all over the nearby Mount Kurokami. Following the colour palette of the plant life and the sky influenced my direction away from a distracting marbling range and into a more crisp and simple colour palette, which highlights porcelain’s finest qualities.”
The Dango Gems vessels are a re-interpretation of Dent’s signature geometrical cups. In pink, dark green, sky blue and cherry red, the tones of the Dango pieces are a nod to hanami dango – sweet rice treats that are served during the cherry blossom season.
Dent was also influenced by the daily dining rituals she witnessed and the amount of dishes used. “The dining rituals informed the three main considerations my new work focuses on; form, material and capacity,” she explains, “but perhaps the most significant aspect is the way the vessels feel in your hand.”