Handmade, small-batch ceramics are having a moment. You can find them in boutiques, in high-end restaurants, styled in magazine shoots and on the shelves of tastemakers everywhere. To those who make them, this resurgence in handmade ceramics runs deeper than the general trend in artisanal, small-batch goods that has dominated multiple sectors in the past few years.
Cath Fogarty – an experienced ceramicist, teacher and the founder of China Clay Gallery in Clovelly curated the Clay Intersections exhibition at the Australian Design centre. “In my lifetime, I’ve seen interest in ceramics come and go like fashion,” she tells us. “In the ’70s it was very popular along with macramé, cheese fondue and strange hors d’oeuvres, but in the ’80s interest in the handmade dwindled as cheap handmade imports flooded in. There was shift away from process-driven art practices to conceptual- and media-based art forms.”
What makes this resurgence in ceramics so interesting to Fogarty is that there are so many people discovering the versatility of clay. “It has shifted again, there are still people who dig their own clay and grind rocks to make glaze,” says Fogarty, “but the readily available processed clays, glazes and colours now mean that anyone can jump right in with very little technical knowledge.”
The exhibition pools together the work of eight contemporaries working with clay; Bridget Bodenham; Cone 11's Colin Hopkins and Ilona Topolcsanyi; Helen Earl; Tania Rollond; Natalie Rosin; Ulrica Trulsson and Kenji Uranishi. This range of artists represents both traditional practices of wheel forming, casting and hand building, and new and innovative ways of working materials. Each is cross-disciplinary in a sense, and the nature of their work combines art, craft and design. Natalie Rosin’s structural vessels reflect her background in architecture, and Tania Rollond’s pieces combine her love for porcelain with drawing and painting.
Both Fogarty and The Australian Design Centre are interested in the how the ceramics community is evolving. “This resurgence has meant people coming together to set up collective studio spaces and workshops. There is a strong community around ceramics because you need expensive equipment like kilns and wheels and space to work,” she explains. “Clay people are resourceful and community minded, they tend to share their skills and knowledge generously and it’s exciting to be part of a community like that.”
As well as the exhibition there will be workshops, masterclasses, a Maker’s Market and a Mud Map that details points of interest around Sydney where you can see, buy and study ceramics.
The exhibition Clay Intersections will run until September 21 at the Australian Design Centre.