Creative collection Meet the ceramicist behind Ratbag Studios
CERAMIC ARTIST LARISSA WARREN COMBINES DELICATE PORCELAIN WITH BURSTS OF SWIRLING COLOUR TO CREATE EXQUISITE POTTERY
ONCE A CERAMICIST begins trailing clay footprints through their house, it’s a sure sign they are in need of a dedicated studio. The catalyst for ceramicist Larissa Warren’s new workspace came in 2017, when she took on a large commission for a six-star hotel on Queensland’s Gold Coast. Within six months, the founder of Ratbag Studios (a moniker inspired by an old nickname) had developed four different bodies of work to be displayed in the hotel – no small feat for a working mother of two. The project stepped up the pace of her practice, and her new studio was the result.
Larissa designed the space herself, along with her electrician husband, Scott. The compact design includes a making zone surrounded by shelves for storing her work and a kiln area, divided by a partition wall. A sliding window connects the studio to the sunroom and living area of her home, meaning Scott and their children – Eva, eight, and five-year-old Oscar – can always find Larissa easily. “They often poke their head in and tell me they’re hungry!” she says.
The artist’s interest in ceramics dates from a young age. Her grandmother used to regale her with tales of the iconic Potters Cottage she helped to set up and run in country Victoria, a project dedicated to elevating the value of locally handmade pots. After studying a Bachelor of Fine Art at the Queensland College of Art, Larissa completed another degree in education and launched herself into a successful art-teaching career. More recently she’s moved to part-time, allowing space for her own art practice.
Larissa began to work with porcelain in 2015 and felt an instant connection. “Clay has an amazing transformative nature from its raw wet state through to its fired ceramic product,” she says. “But I found porcelain even more addictive, with qualities such as brilliant whiteness, translucency and an exquisite, smooth surface.” She also started focusing on slip casting; making a plaster mould from an original handmade vessel so the shape can be repeated.
Her unique craft process involves a traditional Japanese technique called neriage. “I stain porcelain various colours and tones, mix in conflicting stoneware and form small pattern blocks,” she explains. “I then inlay slices of these patterned blocks into the walls of thin, slip-cast porcelain vessels. The pattern slices go all the way through the walls, so you can see it on the inside and outside of each vessel.” Her neriage blocks are purposefully layered and complex, often inspired by Australian landscapes.
Contrast and texture are overriding elements of Larissa’s vivid vessels. “I love the endless possibilities of clay and the rewards of opening a kiln full of goodies,” she says. “There is so much to learn and I’m thankful to be in a community of ceramicists who share their knowledge.”
“HAVING SUCCESS IN A FEW CERAMIC AWARDS AND EXHIBITIONS GAVE ME THE CONFIDENCE TO FORM MY OWN STUDIO” ~ Larissa
THIS PAGE: Ratbag Studio’s precious porcelain products are crafted using a special Japanese technique. OPPOSITE PAGE, CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Larissa with her trusty canine companion, Jabba; colourants ready to mix into porcelain clay or slip; a range of slip-cast porcelain beakers; tools stored in a special vintage tin Larissa’s grandmother used during her own career as a potter.
CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Wafer-thin petals of porcelain infused with ceramic crystals – these are pieces from a work in progress; using a plaster mould, Larissa marbles black clay slip into porcelain slip to create colourful effects on one of her creations; the ceramicist practises the art of neriage.