More is more when it comes to hand­made vases, says Neale Whitaker.


Sunday Herald Sun - Stellar - - Contents - Neale Whitaker is ed­i­tor-at-large of Vogue Liv­ing.

Ihave col­lected many things in my life. Like postage stamps and cos­tume dolls (OK, I was very young), nei­ther of which – let’s be hon­est – are likely to pop up on the style radar any time soon. Although I once said that about my col­lec­tion of vinyl mu­sic – and how wrong I was. But it’s for­tu­itous that I’ve kept my vases, be­cause if ever there was a time to dust them off, it’s now.

Whether stoneware, earth­en­ware, porce­lain or glass – even brass – the hum­ble vase has never been hot­ter. When I scroll through my pho­tos from this year’s Mi­lan De­sign Week, it’s all about ves­sels. Note that what was once a vase has be­come a ves­sel. And we’re not talk­ing lone ves­sels ei­ther, we’re talk­ing gen­er­ous group­ings of them. That would be a fleet.

Ni­co­lette John­son (nico­let­te­john­son ce­ram­ is a ce­ramic artist based in Bris­bane. Her strik­ingly cur­va­ceous work is gain­ing recog­ni­tion, mostly via so­cial me­dia, with a new au­di­ence per­haps seek­ing the au­then­tic­ity of craft as an an­ti­dote to tech­nol­o­gy­driven lives. John­son’s sin­u­ous and sculp­tural vases, urns and totems echo clas­si­cal Greece, although she cites in­spi­ra­tion from the mid-’80s Mem­phis Group to British pot­ter Lu­cie Rie.

“Peo­ple are be­com­ing more con­scious about how things are made,” she says. “There’s a greater de­mand for trans­parency, doc­u­men­ta­tion and ex­per­i­men­ta­tion. So­cial me­dia has changed the way cre­atives show their work to the pub­lic and the way that work is made in the first place.”

Other Aus­tralians cre­at­ing beau­ti­ful and in­trigu­ing ce­ramic works in­clude Syd­ney-based Alana Wil­son (alanaw­il­ and Mel­bourne duo Porce­lain Bear (porce­lain­ and, at a more ac­ces­si­ble level, you only have to look un­der “vases and botan­i­cals” on re­tailer West Elm’s web­site (west­ to see how ex­ten­sive the trend is – and also a use­ful les­son in how to dis­play them. “Ce­ram­ics and the hand­made are in hot de­mand,” says West Elm Aus­tralia PR and brand mar­ket­ing direc­tor Lexi Kent­mann. “In an era of tech-ad­dic­tion, it’s good to pick up some­thing crafted by hand, and to know no two pieces are the same.” The Us-based re­tailer sup­ports ar­ti­san com­mu­ni­ties from Gu­atemala to Viet­nam through a fair-trade pro­gram.

When it comes to dis­play­ing ves­sels, more is more. Five feels like the right num­ber. If you can cre­ate a loose theme (colour, shape, ma­te­rial or height), so much the bet­ter. But there re­ally are no rules – and re­mem­ber that op shops and garage sales are now your best friends.

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