PRO­FILE

This Mel­bourne-based ce­ram­i­cist fell in love at the wheel and never looked back

Inside Out (Australia) - - Contents - EDITED BY SUE WHEELER

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.

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