MADE BY HAND
OUT OF HER RURAL STUDIO, BRIDGET BODENHAM CRAFTS ARTFUL CERAMIC WARES JUST IN TIME FOR CHRISTMAS.
Ceramicist and makers’ market favourite Bridget Bodenham is crafting decorations for the season.
CERAMICIST BRIDGET BODENHAM celebrates Christmas with her family at their bushland home just outside the central Victorian town of Hepburn Springs. The gathering includes her family, a few friends and the family’s young Rottweilers, Obie and Pearl. With a spread of festive fare laid out on a rustic table on their wide stone verandah, with views out over the forest canopy and distant hills, it’s a day that flows on in its own relaxed rhythm. “Our day is low-key and I’m not into the commercial aspect of Christmas,” explains the 32-year-old, who lives and works in the family home of converted shipping containers that also accommodates her mother, Madeleine, an artist and art conservator, her sister, Emily, Emily’s partner, Lance, and their six-year-old daughter, Aurora. Bridget’s brother, Will, her assistant in the ceramic studio, lives in nearby Daylesford. “Emily’s domain at Christmas is the tree, and she will colourcoordinate it,” says Bridget. “We have a meal out on a big table >
as late in the day as we can pull it off with all of us and invited friends. I’m vegetarian and most of the family aren’t too meat-heavy so we’ll have salads, lots of roast vegies, Mum does her signature nut loaf, and Em does a trifle.” Bridget also looks forward to celebrating and serving the fruit of the season mangoes, cherries and stone fruit and the chance to lay the table with her handcrafted ceramic wares. This year, the table’s centrepiece will be a gold-embellished ceramic crown. “I made the crowns last year. A lot of people bought them for the table and put candles or a vase and floral arrangements in them.” During the year, Bridget is a regular at design markets around the country. However, the lead-up to Christmas is her busiest time as she prepares for the Finders Keepers and The Big Design markets in Melbourne and Sydney. Plans for a new spacious, purpose-built studio and living complex, which is currently under construction down the hill, have also been keeping the ceramicist busy. The new space will be a change from the container studio, overlooking the family’s kitchen garden, where Bridget has worked for more than a decade. In the close confines of the container studio, the shelves are packed with ghostly pale, newly fired pieces. There are also finished pieces glazed, textured and coloured ceramics in myriad forms. Among them are scallop-edged plates and bowls, tiny serving spoons, kitchen utensils, teacups with gold handles, watering cans, hanging planters and whimsical Creature vases for holding a single bloom. Bridget picks up a box of tiny stars and hearts. “Some of these little shapes are for earrings, Christmas tree hearts and my star brooches,” she says. “I’ve also been making pod-like and sculptural shapes for hanging on trees, and a big gold star that can hang in a window.” After studying arts and ceramics at the University of Ballarat (now Federation University), Bridget started creating tactile, sculptural pieces that reflected her love of food-preparation culture mainly small-scale utensils, bowls, spoons, paddles, pestles and serving dishes. While her early work was as often organic earthenware as it was delicate and fragile porcelain, every unique handcrafted piece worked together as a collection. As Bridget’s work has evolved over the years, she’s added jewellery: earrings, beads, rings, bangles and brooches to fill up the small spaces in the kiln. She currently also loves making garden planters. “I am planning all kinds of plant-related stuff such as orchid pots and vases,” she says. Colour, in the form of summery and playful stripes, gold and silver embellishments, and gingham and check patterns, have begun to infuse and stylistically connect her latest work. “And while they are all different, they all link together,” Bridget says. Two recent trips to Japan have further invigorated her practice. “The first trip was so overwhelming it was hard to focus, but since my most recent trip I have honed in on smaller dishes and shapes,” she says. “The indigo I’m using is a Japanese influence, and I think the scalloped edge on some of my work has come from there.” But it’s the bush that has always been Bridget’s muse; and on daily walks through the property with Pearl and Obie, it’s the random shapes and textures of nature that resonate with her. “I do think the environment greatly informs my work and encourages my creativity and exploration,” she says. “Every year I feel like I learn all over again how the seasons change and bring newness.” Bridget Bodenham’s ceramics are available at bridgetbodenhamceramics.bigcartel.com
Unfired, hand-thrown vases left to dry. FACING PAGE ‘Ms Possum’, pictured here in a eucalyptus wreath, “appeared one day and has been very friendly. We are trying to leave her be as much as possible,” says Bridget.