Black cats, Dalmatian dogs and pink slices of watermelon are some of the subjects that appear in the work of illustrator and ceramic artist Bea Bellingham. She will make her debut at The Finders Keepers Markets in May.
An English expat, Bellingham grew up in West Bay, the picturesque seaside town in Dorset best known as the dramatic setting for TV series, Broadchurch.
“We were pretty wild as kids, always exploring the local farms and forests,” says Bellingham, whose intrinsic love of nature and animals plays out with delightful whimsy in her work. Inspiration comes from, “Absolutely anything,” she says. “Flowers, animals, conversations with friends, memories or just watching the world go by. I understand things visually, so often a saying or a play on words will spiral into a visual idea.”
All Bellingham’s ceramics, from her appealingly lopsided vases, to her fruity jewellery, are brought to life in the Petersham studio she shares with her canine “studio assistant”, Buddy.
The workshop has, “Enormous windows looking over Petersham and Leichhardt which let in beautiful light,” she says. “I’ve shelves full of canvases and ceramics, huge architect draws full of illustrations, a slab-roller and work bench plus mountains of paints, brushes, pens and pencils. It’s not a huge space but it works for me and the dog.”
Although Bellingham only started making ceramics last year, she considers her work with clay a natural progression for the “wonderfully wonky lines” that are a feature of her watercolour and acrylic illustrations.
“Almost all of my ceramics are slab-rolled, meaning I roll out a big clay pancake and then hand-build each vessel. It’s a really personal approach to ceramics that naturally creates variations to every item,” she says. “The owner can experience the textures and brushstrokes that formed their new item, knowing they are the only person to own that exact form and pattern.”
This bespoke approach is best expressed in the cottage nightlights Bellingham creates for children. “They’re all hand built, with each of the 64 windows cut out, and then they’re hand-painted. The roof alone takes about 20 minutes to paint. I vividly remember having a cottage nightlight when I was a child, which I adored,” she says. “I really hope they can provide the enjoyment I had over the years to other little people.”