Monday, September 2, 2013


Even the biggest party animal knows that some nights you must stay home to wash your hair.  Balance in life – where the hell do you find it?  I’m no party animal and I’ve never mastered juggling but this is my current struggle, work, family, health, fun, friends, food, laundry and walking the dog.  I feel like I am failing at most of the above, yet I never stop trying.  This weekend I’ve been discussing image transfer materials, mutual friends and catching up in Canberra next weekend with Anna Nangle (Chicos) 
Sharon O'Donnell and Anna Chicos with Anna's porcelain
Another ANU clay pal Vicki Passlow visiting from NSW dined here last night and told me of her very exciting new directions in her work.  I cannot wait to meet Milena Salustio next weekend and who know what other friends at next weekend’s ANU hosted Printand Clay Symposium back at the old Alma Mater, ANU Canberra.  We are all few years down the line from graduating and it feels great to catch up on the pals now and then. Meanwhile in Perth I have 1000 things to do before I get into my studio and do some throwing.  I'm on a mission.  I’ve been too busy tech-ing and teaching lately to focus on my own practice. This is purgatory. Blogging is my answer for keeping myself accountable, networking, sharing, making new friends and most of all, documenting my own work and that of others. See Carole Epp’s blog Musing about Mud to see all that done par excellence!  Carole is a catalyst in the clay universe for many potters and clay artists. 

Andrea Vinkovic - Arch 21
My friend and co-worker Andrea Vinkovic is a new blogger and and I'm so excited that we’ll be hearing more of the why and the how of her diverse clay work. I don’t know anyone who makes stuff like Andrea does, or anyone who gets as much done as she does come to that.  

I see blogging as slowing down a little to ‘smell the roses’ and renew the enjoyment of our chosen m├ętier.  It is a pity BLOGGING sounds so much like ‘Bragging’, the difference is enormous. Well, what a nerve and ego to want to share our enthusiasm for clay, what makes us think anyone would want to read what we have to say?  Plenty of people do, the proof is in the pudding!  Just click onto Mud Colony Blog which is a haven for clay bloggers to see the energy and diversity in our little creative underworld.
I was at Fleur Schell’s ‘The Clay House’ in North Fremantle last week where the Guest Artist in Residence CJ Jilek from the USA, generously revealed some of the processes necessary to attain her incredible surfaces for results that go way beyond the average. It often shows when a person has worked in another creative field besides clay, intersections happen.   

Examine the photographs of CJ's work closely, this is seriously thought out and worked.  No dunking in a bucket of glaze here, every surface is carefully considered and executed.  I find them utterly thrilling. Usually when clay folk get together it is all about the clay, glazes, methods and your tools, but really we know that it isn’t what you do, it’s the way that you do it.  It made me realise once more that I’ve been privileged so often to witness and learn others’ hard won techniques and skills.  If I wore a hat, I’d be like an automaton and doffing it constantly.

Some of her work is literally 'articulated', rubber coated or tipped in soft fibres not dissimilar to the plant life which inspires her. Despite plants being complex and sexual, I resisted the tempation to allude to that in this post's title.  CJ and partner Tony Wise are in Western Australia for a long stay so we'll get to know both artists and their work in the coming months.  I love Tony's blog, it is great value - just like he is.  

So who knew that stamping and rolling and working into a surface with macro and micro scaled patterning could be massively effective, that the very type of brush used with underglaze, how it is loaded and applied to a surface can tell such a different story with the slightest alteration of pressure.  After talking to CJ I just wanted to go play and everthing I saw, a bowl of shells on the kitchen counter, the pen lid in the end of my backpack – all presented new surface possibilities. Nothing can beat Fleur's set of texturising implements - who else has a set of their grandfather's orthopaedic surgical instruments to play with?  It was incredible to have access to such things and such fun.

I was kind of thrilled to see among all the handmade mugs and beakers at the Clay House, one by Anna C,  CJ was drinking from it.  I have two of Anna’s mugs and I often use them at my Print on Clay courses to illustrate how such a simple image transfer technique an be amplified into exquisite works.  

MINE! made by Anna Chicos
But back to CJ's work, as with so many of the superb international and local Australian artists I have been lucky enough to meet so far in my little clay career I find myself so very, very impressed at the quality of work, the time and attention to detail given to a piece of clay work that sets it so far apart from the rest.  So to any students - don’t cut corners, go with your gut, put the time in, do those tests, try things out. What is the potter’s mantra?  TEST, TEST, TEST!  It is those tests that teach so much and are the foundation and confirmation of our directions. These are the lessons we need to pass on.  None of it comes easy, lots of practice and observation required, many losses endured and back to the work again with renewed vigour and a clearer vision of your goal.  
I'll sign off knowing you are going back to check out all of those links I shared, especially CJ's website and what The Clay House is all about and share some of my snaps of tests and trials made there last week.  Oh and see ya over at the Mud Colony blog.  
carving and water etching
underglaze options on texture
mishima over water soluble wax


  1. I love Carole Epps blog and read it all the time. She's such a great supporter of the clay community.

    I love what you're doing with printing on clay. I'm trying to design more design into the project that I'm working on currently. Your work is really inspiring.

  2. Great post. Yes you've really nailed it, what blogging is all about. And the CJ Jilek things look amazing! Makes me want to go and play too.