From Oct to Dec 2020, a small selection of my sparrows will be on show at CraftACT: Design + Craft Centre in Canberra, Australia.
In 2015, I investigated the disappearance of sparrows in my hometown Canberra. Five years on and after the bushfires raged across Australia and the Sapphire Coast in New South Wales, I felt compelled to revisit this series. Sitting in my studio, I refined the patterns and pierced more holes to emphasize the fragility of birdlife consumed at a rate unseen before. Now, more than ever, we need to care for our wildlife. This poem is for them.
shape the clay / small bird form
make the mould / a nest for the body
pour two slips / create one whole
slow the drying process / Nana’s hankie shelters the bird
pencil on design / bring it to life with marking
pierce with care / patterns reveals you
two firings / fully formed now
sanding and polishing, completed / light and fragile sparrow
I’m participating again in the Open Studios as part of Design Canberra Festival 2019. I’ve been doing this for a few years now and love meeting new and familiar faces as they see my studio and arts practice slowly grow. I’ve also been a bit busy with a gallery that I run so visitors will have an extra bonus of seeing Canberra’s (possibly Australia’s) smallest gallery – GOST. We have a beautiful garden that surrounds the studio/gallery. I’ll have new porcelain decorations in time for Christmas, along with my new colours in the pollen jewellery range, my popular birds and little dishes. So, pop on in as I’ll be open 11am to 4pm Saturday 9 November 19 along with many other studios on the Northside of Canberra.
Well it’s now been nine days later after opening night on Friday 3 July 2015 and I’m still on a high as our group exhibition Protean by 19 members from Claybodies Ceramics Group has been a huge success.
So many wonderful people braved 5 degrees and Canberra’s coldest night to date to support our opening. We were all in a state of shock as you could barely move.
But, the excitement and buzzing in the room was fantastic and everyone later said it felt like good vibes and happy people! We think more than 200 visitors attended and stayed till closing.
Sales kept our artists busy and catalogues flew out the door. Well at $8 for a beautifully designed book, we are not surprised!
Our group worked really hard to bring this exhibition to fruition as early as August last year. Meetings were held monthly and hotted up from February this year as it became apparent we had a lot of work to coordinate and delegate. Works were discussed with our Curator, Mark Van Veen, former CMAG curator and he provide guidance on selecting 1-3 works each and teaching us the essence of contemplating fewer objects rather than en mass. He also helped with sizing of plinths as we had to make our own plinths. This is rare as most galleries supply them but Nishi Gallery don’t have storage room.
So, my husband Adam spent many weekends and week nights custom making 17 plinths. Our garage became a mountain of boxes until a group of women descended with paint rollers in hand! It was such a great day as rollers went swishing and the boxes started to resemble art gallery plinths.
We also engaged a photographer, artist statement workshop and designer to pull together a stunning catalogue to showcase our works. All of this was purely funded by the artists. No financial assistance was received by local or state government. You wouldn’t want to know how much it cost…but we all truly believe in our practice and that ceramics is a truly wonderful art form that deserves prominence.
So, what work do I have this time? I’ve created a new body of work based on the domestic sparrow. Here is my artist statement in the catalogue:
Dull and brown, flittering in shadows, domestic Poor little sparrow you are invisible But I can change that Porcelain and light, patterns piercing you Delicate, white and now seen
A few photos from the exhibition which runs till 19 July 2015. Get in quick as works are selling fast! Also check out The Canberra Times and Sydney Morning Herald for a wonderful arts review by Kerry Anne Cousins.
Hello everyone, it’s been a while since I’ve blogged. I’ve been busy since Boxing Day making new work for an up and coming exhibition. So, please save the date and if you would like an invite please send me an email request. Thanks, Anne
I just realised 14 seems to be a popular date when it comes to me being in group exhibitions. My last exhibition was 14 Feb 14. So, I hope this is a lucky number for me as my 2nd exhibition for 2014 is just @ the corner. As I write this I am down to the wire as I continue to fire my works…but shush! don’t tell anyone ;).
This work is quite different to the Marion series I created for the Feb exhibition and thankfully took less time (3 months vs 2 years!). I did have grand plans of showing a body of work that would involve the flying ducks with a twist. However, technical issues prevented me from continuing this work*. I had to bite the bullet and go back to familiar territory – working with shellac and porcelain.
This series is all about Winter seeds – in particular gumnuts captured in a graphic motif. The colours are as crisp as a Canberra’s winter’s morning and evening – white (morning frost), black (evenings) and bottle green (lush green grass). The white in particular stands out as I’ve used Southern Ice Porcelain – Australian white clay renowned for its finesses and whiteness.
This is just a sneak preview of the work which is designed to adorn the walls of your home or work place. They are @ 11.5 c and come as 1, 2 or 3 in a set. Hopefully this snippet will entice you to come and see the exhibition on the opening night – 4pm Saturday 14 June (nibbles, wine and warm fireplaces as winter hits Canberra with a shock!) or Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays till end June.
Here is the invitation front and back with details.
* Don’t despair – the ducks haven’t been shot down! I do plan to re-visit them as I really want to explore this iconic wall adornment and reinterpret it with a twist. So, watch this space!
 It is also renowned for its translucency – as my work is about wall tiles this feature was not a focus.
I am very excited to announce JAC has published my first article in its 52/2 July 2013 edition pages 98-101. It is my perspective as a graduating student on the need for education and widening skills base for those involved in the visual arts.
Thanks to the Australian Ceramics Association for including me in this issue which has a focus on Education, Greg Piper’s evocative portrait shots from Clay Push Gulgong 2013 and a showcase of Open Studios Ceramics Australia.
Well, reality has certainly bitten this little petal. After an agonizing time carefully loading my eight tiles into the bisque kiln on Saturday I finally opened the door on Monday morning to uncover a firing disaster. I knew one of the tiles had broken, as Christina checked late Sunday night, so I braced myself as to which one I had lost. It wasn’t until when removing the tiles one by one I realized something had gone terribly wrong. Tile after tile – major cracks – and when I got to the shelf that’s when I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. The kiln shelf had split fair into two pieces. Out of the eight tiles I made, only two survived and one partially – as Adam kindly pointed out “it was only a 75% failure rate”. I laid them all out on the bench, photographed them and headed straight back to my room. I felt so deflated and could have kicked myself – where did I do wrong?
I had read up on the Internet – reliable ceramic sites to work out how to bisque large tiles. I found some great sites/detailed information but they all related to small bathroom tiles and nothing my size or depth. I chatted to another artist in residence who was confident I could lay the tiles on top of each other. I had plans to lay one on each shelf – but we didn’t have enough shelves for that option. So, I had the yellow clay tiles on 2 separate shelves and the white clay tiles stacked carefully on each other.
I didn’t know one kiln shelf had a hairline fracture and the weight of the tiles combined with the fracture may have been the cause for the break. Our Technician Rachel hadn’t seen anything like it before and was surprised at the outcome. We talked about what the cause was but couldn’t give a definitive answer. She suggested next time I stack them side by side with bricks – like toast in one of those old-fashioned toast stands.
Someone else suggested clay coils around each of the tiles to slow down the heat so it’s not fast on the outside and a shock to the center. So lots of ideas and if any ceramicist out there can give me tips I’d so much welcome them as I’m keen to continue making these tiles when I come home.
The good news is someone upstairs must have been looking after me as the two tiles, which survived, were in fact the most important – the main feature tiles for the old/serene body of work. At least I can work with something and the other good news, which Adam also pointed out “you’ll save on shipping costs now!” He of course totally understood, felt bad about my firing and let me have a good sob over Skype.
So, today I woke up with a massive hangover after drinking a tad too much – probably because I knew I needed to commiserate, held my last dinner duty with the gorgeous Evelyn from Estonia, given a presentation to Project Network 2013 members on tips to improve grant applications and only had one more kiln firing to go. Anyway, onwards and upwards and I have to say one of the girls here made me realize you have to embrace ceramics with all its uncontrollable elements and be prepared for breakages, kiln and/or glaze disasters. Only the day before, another artist accidentally knocked over one of Claire’s exhibition pieces. He was mortified and she was calm as she quickly threw the piece in the bin. She made the whole incident painless and is truly a model of graciousness and practicality.
Anyway, I spent today glazing my two tiles and I’m happy with the results. The work, along with the pendants will be ready to put in the kiln on Wednesday and should be out some time Friday.
Post note: the works came out today….and sadly, another firing disaster. It just seems I been given the ultimate test ‘to harden up princess’ as Adam says. Well, I opened the door to see one big gooey hard mess in front of me.
We had to wait till the kiln cooled down and Rachel helped me pull the shelves out. Two were joined together and when we pulled them all out we assessed the damage – to the shelves and the element. Whatever work came out went straight to my desk with no interest. I was worried about the damage. We got a hammer and chisel and she showed me what I’d have to do to get rid of the glaze. The glaze is hard as rock and when you break it, its like glass. So, we worked carefully but struggled to avoid the actual shelf from being ruined. So, she left me and 2hrs later I tried my best to rescue the shelves. Two of the shelves are not savable and with a damaged wire I’m going to be up for some big $$’s. My budget for the firings has been totally blown out. I also lost 1/2 my pendants which had been made as gifts for people here. So, unfortunately that special project is out the window. As for my 2 tiles, they somehow managed to be okay. I did take a photo to put in this posting but it could have helped if I put the memory card in! Its now too late as I’ve bubble wrapped my works in preparation for leaving. So lesson learned…don’t put a low fire clay in a high fire clay firing. I didn’t realise I had made this mistake and now I know what happens and trust me I won’t be making this expensive mistake again…
So, this is probably my last posting related to my time here as an artist-in-residence. I’m pleased I took myself out of my comfort zone and explore new clays, glazes and forms. This is the complete opposite to what I did at University and I’m so glad I didn’t create the same work and play it safe. I’m looking forward to coming home as I miss Adam, Miami and of course family, friends and work colleagues. I will also miss my new friends made here at Guldagergaard. Its been an amazing experience and one I highly recommend any ceramic artist to consider as part of their career…just start saving now and be open to all that ceramics throws at you!
It’s been 2 weeks now and I feel ready to show the progress of my work. This project commenced February 2012 in terms of an idea but I had no actual idea as to where it would lead me.
While working on another body of work I uncovered a series of drawings by American architect Marion Mahony Griffin prepared for hers and American architect Walter Burley Griffin winning entry in the Australian Federal Capital Design Competition in 1912. What occurred to me about one of these renderings was how white the buildings were envisaged in this new city (Canberra) and how the landscape seemed to hover ever so gently in, and around, the delicate lined streets of suburbia. Neither Walter or Marion had been to Australia, “…In 1912, idealized images of the native landscape-known colloquially as the bush-and its requisite eucalyptus and gum trees were gaining iconic status as symbols of national identity…” Debora Wood, Marion Mahony Griffin: Drawing the Form of Nature (Illinois: Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art Northwestern University Press, 2005), 11.
View from the Summit of Mount Ainslie, 1911. Credit: National Archives of Australia
Australia is often associated with sun, white beaches, rain forests and desert. Canberra is like a garden city – surrounded by bush and our winters are cold, windy and with the occasional snow dumps. We have soft blue skies and when the light hits the silver birches and gum trees it highlights how serene Canberra is.
However, as the past three weeks has shown, Canberra and the rest of Australia have been experiencing perhaps one of the worst heat waves in history. Scorching temperatures, sweating firefighters and city/country people bracing themselves day in day out as rising temperatures refuse to budge. But more on that later and back to Marion’s rendering.
I tucked this rendering away for a while as a possible future project. A few months later I had the opportunity to apply for an artist in residence at Guldagergaard, the drawing re-surfaced and unbeknown to me Marion became my shadow. She followed me everywhere as I read about her, watched a documentary, visited the National Archives of Australia to view the original works with conservator Ian Batterham, and discuss the finer points of the material, the water colours, and Marion’s relationship with her husband. I figured there must be some way I can include her in my original proposal – celebrating Canberra’s centenary in 2013 and creating a body of work that places my association with growing up in a city surrounded by bush.
Without going into the finer points of researching and initial testing ideas – this was a 7-10 month process – I’ll try to narrow down elements which are crucial to the final outcome of potential exhibition work.
Sanam Emami is a creator of markings through surface decorations; stamping and application of silkscreen transfers on her vases/teapots. I particularly like her markings beneath the transfer and how the two techniques blend seamlessly and provide the viewer with an additional experience to the decorative.
I experimented with a range of objects (old and new) and narrowed it down to a old Canberra tourist spoon, a new vinyl placemat from the National Museum of Australia shop (acknowledging local indigenous people who can trace their occupancy of this space, for many thousands of years), an Australian window shade blind with a simple weave (Marion used ‘window shade holland’ as her surface to create her renderings), and a cake tool (acknowledging my part time retail job to support my practice).
Screen-printing and decals
Marion used a range of techniques in three mediums – textiles, paper and painting. I did not necessarily want to use the same techniques but acknowledge that any work I created would be made mostly by hand – as she did. The only processes which required modern equipment was the digital machinery to produce the decals and (I think) the light process to expose images of Marion and the ghost gum tree on to the silk screens.
How I came to choosing black silhouettes of Marion was based on a little known fact “…at the end of her life, she altered the credit lines on a number of drawings in her possession to read ‘Marion Mahony Griffin, designing architect’…”. In the documentary City of Dreams one of the social historians explains, she also blacked out the credit lines but this was done with sensitivity as her and Walter had an incredible artistic collaboration. I thought this was very telling of that period and how complex her relationship must have been personally and professionally. Hence, my need to tell her story and parallel it with mine.
What I really enjoyed about the preparation for screen-printing was hand drawing each of the images and trying to work out how to create positive/negative areas, which would enhance the portraiture/landscape. I was fortunate one of the teachers (Denise Ferris) at the Canberra School of Art (my other part-time job) liked the way Marion was captured – in time, the period, her Mary Jane shoes, long dress and reflective stance. She suggested I look up Kara Walker, an artist who creates cut black paper portraits and adheres them to paper, canvas and walls. Her silhouettes are delightful, thought provoking and some with a modern twist.
I had this idea I would have Marion looking forward with her vision of this new city and me reflecting on being the person she envisaged living the life. So, my friend Trish photographed me sitting on a contemporary chair, in a short-medium length dress, high heels and looking very relaxed. See, Marion was always on my mind and I was constantly wondering what would she think…
Just before I left Australia, I had the chance to attend a talk by Curator Peter Haynes on a group exhibition by three prominent Canberra artists – G.W. Bot, Anita McIntyre, Wendy Teakel. Marking Place provided me with the confidence I needed to be able to pull my many ideas together and focus on cohesion, subject matter, and simplicity. In particular, Ceramicist Anita McIntyre’s fish memories(2012) resonated with my goal to keep the form clean and relevant to the subject matter so the decorative narrative could surface. G.W. Bot’s Paddock, glyphs and moon, 2011 also provide a pivotal turning point in my work last week and as I looked at her ‘limited palette – black, red and ochre‘ I could see another layout crystallizing before me.
As previously mentioned, Australia has been experiencing heat waves and bushfires in and around cities and rural towns. I looked at my Danish clay – yellow brick and realized how this symbolized the dry heat – haze and smoke the firefighters experience; then my red screen print of me – initially a bold statement about my own independence as a woman – but how this could mean fire. The sky was pitch red I recall driving home in 2003 not knowing it would be a catastrophic event for Canberra; the black is in reference to burnt trees that dot the country at any given time. I think I now have two possible works – one serene (old) and one in the present day (new). Thanks Marion.
Thanks also must be mentioned to Joanne Searle for our speed dating session on screen-printing in my garage and Sasha Kukoc for her patience in creating the silk screens.
I’m so excited at finally having my work put in two of my favourite design shops – Handsomeandpretty in Canberra and Made by Others in Moss Vale – two beautiful outlets with amazing owners.
Firstly, Handsomeandpretty….well I’ve known Jen since I started selling my ‘hobby’ ceramics at the Kingston Bus Depot Markets (KBDM) way back in 1998. I had a full-time job and was practicing my hobby in the evenings. Jen had a shop called The Hive and it started at the KBDM, where she stocked my ‘sushi’ and ‘fertility’ sets, and then she moved to bigger and swankier premises in Braddon. Jen would have been the first person in Canberra to really showcase local artists work in a trendy shop. For some Canberreans…shopping outside of the Mall or the Canberra Centre was considered unheard of. She was the trendsetter of boutique art + design shopping. Anyway, several years down the track she sold The Hive to concentrate on becoming a silversmith jeweller and imagine my delight when I found out a few months ago she was opening a new shop back in the stomping grounds of Braddon. Even nicer was she was keen to look at my work and take a few pieces on for her new shop. OMG…me being Anne had to think long and hard as I honestly didn’t think I would be selling my jewellery till 2013. Admittedly, I didn’t have the confidence (or the time) to invest in marketing my own work. The irony is that I was happy to help other artists market their work! So, the good news is Jen will be stocking some of my pendants (note images are above are indicative of pendants available) and please if you can support local business…pop into Lonsdale Traders and check out the industrial warehouse concept that will change your view on shopping. It’s quirky, cool and is going to put Canberra on the map! In fact, it’s so cool that hot off the press today is a fabulous article, Transformation into a hipster hangout, in The Canberra Times today (27 October 2012).
Now, to my faithful friends in Moss Vale at Made by Others. I first met Anna and Ursula exactly this time 2 years ago when I was finishing my first semester at the ANU Canberra School of Art. Hubby and I had gone to Bowral for the weekend and as we whizzed past the main street of Moss Vale my shopping alert radar went up as I spun my head around 90 degrees and told him to pull over! Why? I saw a gorgeous shop and we must stop! Talk about funny….well it was beautiful and had lots of artworks from ceramics to scarves to prints and dresses. The story goes…
I got chatting to the owner Anna and once she realised I was studying she was keen to see my work – I happened to have some photos and Anna said to keep in contact. Well, I kept in contact with the occasional visit, showing her the latest work and once I graduated and they saw my final exhibition pieces she said when I was ready with packaging etc to come and see them.
Well that happened about a week ago (2 years later…) and I was thrilled that Anna, Ursula and Kate (one of the customers providing her insight into my pendants) loved my works. It was great watching them pick and choose while I chatted away to Ian who was studying painting. Anyway, they have take on a few of my works and please if you can support an interstate business….pop into the main street and check out the coffee/hot chocolate/tea and scrummy cakes available while you shop in style, have a chat and meet new people.
Oooh…did I mention I was excited? Yeah…I’m grateful to have such wonderful supporters of the arts/craft/design in Canberra and NSW.