This Melbourne-based ceramicist fell in love at the wheel and never looked back
Inspired by geometry and architectural forms, ceramicist Grace Brown creates clay cityscapes
Where did your creative journey begin? I moved from rural Victoria to Melbourne to study fashion design at RMIT University and then worked for several years at various fashion houses, both here and in London. When I returned to Australia I decided to take a ceramics course at Collingwood’s Slow Clay Centre, a school specialising in Japanese pottery techniques. From my very first experience on the wheel I was hooked and unlocked a new burst of creative energy! How did ceramics become your day job? After taking a variety of courses I completed an internship and became Slow Clay’s studio technician. Eventually I decided to explore pottery more seriously and now have my own art practice, Oh Hey Grace, and share a studio in North Melbourne with some really inspiring ceramic artists. I also teach pottery and art at Slow Clay. Helping students to fall in love with pottery the way I did completes a beautiful ‘cycle’ for me. What’s your personal process? Most of my work is a combination of wheel-thrown and handbuilding techniques. I often throw a huge range of shapes and let them partially dry until ‘leather-hard’. Then I sculpt into them, joining geometric shapes or trimming them into smooth domes to create miniature cities. There are so many joins in my work that if they dry too quickly small cracks appear, so to combat this I slow-dry pieces under plastic for a week or two. I use textures or contrasting clay, but intentionally leave my glazes neutral as there’s a lot going on between the silhouettes and shapes. Where does your inspiration come from? Mainly from geometry, contrasting textures, architectural forms and the work of Dutch graphic artist M.C. Escher. Anything with strong geometric lines that creates a surreal and dreamlike landscape is my go-to for inspiration. I’m a huge Star Wars fan so I make forms influenced by buildings in desert scenes using rammed earth adobe buildings with strange entrances and proportions. My pieces are part functional ware and part Utopian cityscapes, with labyrinth-like buildings. What are your favourite pieces to make? My more sculptural works. No two are the same and they inspire me to push myself and my technique. I find it incredibly comforting and inspiring working with clay and I find it hard to stay away from the studio for too long. What do you love most about working in the creative sphere? That I can go into my studio and create an impossible landscape or form I’ve been dreaming about from the earth. Working with clay is incredibly grounding. There are lots of breakages and glaze variations, which stops me from becoming attached to pieces and helps me to accept the changes that occur working in a creative industry. What do you have coming up? I recently finished an exclusive collection for furniture store Modern Times in Collingwood, which will be available at Christmas. I’m working on some different kinds of clay bodies and making larger sculptures, so I’m really excited to get these out of my studio and into the world.
ABOVE Grace Brown’s miniature cities before glazing. BELOWAND OPPOSITE The artist in her happy place, behind the wheel in her Melbourne studio. OPPOSITE (clockwise from top right) Slow-drying to a ‘leather-hard’ stage. A cityscape featuring Grace’s signature forms: geometric stairwells, sharp lines, smooth adobe domes and archways. More geometric shapes decorate the outside of a neutrally glazed vessel.