How do you balance a time-intensive law degree while establishing yourself as an in-demand ceramicist?
“With great difficulty,” laughs Tara Burke, who is in artist mode today, surrounded by clay in her studio at Alexandria’s Nest Creative Space.
“This is the first time I’ve tried to balance meeting orders and preparing for a show with a really intense amount of study, so I’m figuring it out as I go,” she says. “I’m generally doing a lot of late nights on the books, getting through each day as it comes and not thinking about it too much. Just trying to make it work.”
After she studied for degrees in anthropology and ceramics, Burke moved from Melbourne to Sydney for a change of environment. Today she shares her studio at the Nest Creative Space in Alexandria with fellow ceramicists Milly Dent and Claire Johnson, painters, jewellery-makers, graphic designers and florist The Flower Era.
Something about this shake-up in her life proved to be a catalyst for her creative work. “It was really through Instagram that things evolved – sharing my photos and ending up with a few different followers. Eventually I was asked to participate in a group show, Art/Vert.”
Art/Vert was an exhibition about art and plants that took place at Paddington’s Saint Cloche gallery in February. In June she will return to Saint Cloche to take part in Home, a joint exhibition with painter Monique Lovering. To create work for this show, Burke will take inspiration from the Australian environment and its textures.
Burke’s style is earthy and organic. “I mostly work with my hands and I like that you can see finger marks in the end product,” she says. She makes pieces so full of movement and personality they might have walked themselves out of the kiln. Her vases, cups and bowls sit somewhere between art and functional products and find themselves up for display as well as sale.
In addition to this, she’s also working on a range of functional items – “cups, plates, maybe bowls” – for Smiths Organic Markets in Woollahra and for a Kinfolk magazine dinner, which will take place at Saint Cloche during her next exhibition.
“Anyone who’s eaten off a handmade plate knows the difference,” she says. “It certainly changes your experience when you’re eating, in my opinion, so I think it’s really great that restaurants and cafes are supporting ceramicists as well. There’s certainly a lot more of it, so it’s a good time to be in ceramics.”
Burke is studying law with a view to specialise in human rights and while she admits that both sides of her brain are, “Certainly getting a good work out,” she’s glad to have so much on her plate.
Tara Burke’s joint exhibition Home will run at Saint Cloche, Paddington from June 13–28.