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 métier.  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

Sunday, August 4, 2013


AS I haven’t blogged for a while I have a headful of things I’d love to talk about.  How about I start with the most recent, and work my way back.
First of all, the Mud Colony potters are talking about their favourite tools.  So these are my standbys that I wouldn't be without.  Note my name on everything - it is too easy to lose tools in a teaching situation.  

A brass tube about 12cmm wide for making holes in things, 
A handmade bevelling tool, courtesy of my friend Trudy Golley of Red Deer College, Alberta.  
A scoring tool, just sewing needles set into drilled holes in a piece of wood - given me by Britte Stolle Jakob.
A soft red kidney from Mud Tools - any tool by Mud Tools gets on my list.  
My spirit level used for all manner of reasons, 
and finally a very sharp and pointed tool I inherited from JulietteVerdel Kesener, a Dutch potter who moved back home from WA and who gave me her studio contents when I bought her little kiln.  

Last week  work ie Central Institute of Technology, Perth, Western Australia (CIT) held their annual Advanced Diploma Visual Art & Jewellery Design Fundraising Auction.  I’ve missed the last few due to other commitments and now I see why it is such a memorable and desirable event to attend.  The auction took place at Gallery Central, ie the larger TAFE gallery on Aberdeen Street, where a pink shipping container intersects the building’s entrance - quite the landmark.  The planning and admin was handled so well I have to take my hat off to the level of commitment of the students who organized the whole thin and tadaa what was up for auction, student work – for definite, work by their lecturers and support staff at CIT, and donations by former staff, students and supportive parties.  Supportive parties?  I mean people like Master Artist Pippin Drysdale donated FOUR of her pieces – that kind of woke people up.  All sold rapidly.  Tony Jones, Sculptor, Sandra Black porcelain master, Fleur Schell of porcelain story telling fame ...  I’ll show you to invitation to convey the quality of the donors. Their generosity was incredible, so supportive and community minded, but I can't include links to all of them.

And yes, I bought!  It seems to be the season for it.  It is how I like to shop, I don’t go hunting, that part bores me, I wait till the season is right and the cream of things come my way, and it did. 
I got really lucky and bought a student painting and a lidded porcelain jar, about 20 cm tall by Sandra Black with an exquisite crackle glaze over it.  I mean it is to DROOL over.  I have to find a purpose for it so it can truly be used and not just looked at.  Yes Sandra is a great pal of mine and I’d go so far as to refer to her as an informal mentor.  I have at least five or more of her pieces.  My Facebook friends in the clay world – you know who you are – weren’t sure I really got so lucky so I had to photograph the latest piece for them.  I call it clay porn – and that’s okay!

This is the weekend of the annual Fine Art at Hale show, beginning with a lovely cocktail party preview and open to the public for two days after that.  I am heading off soon to collect any work that didn’t sell, a pal said I scored lots of red dots so that’s cool, and to pick up my second Amanda Shelsher piece.  I will share an image of that later once I have it home.  I have to stop now, no money left! Well, until the next time.  Please join me now at the Mud Colony Blog to see what else is happening in clay.  

Friday, June 14, 2013


If you recall I referred to hurting my fingers in my last post.  It is good to be able to type fast again with the stitches in my fingers out. Did I tell you about that?  I won't share photos in case you are squeamish but let my story be a lesson to you.  A month ago I slashed three fingers when I was wiping off crumbs of sponge stuck to the base of a pot. A tiny shard of porcelain had transferred from a kilnshelf to the pot in the firing and was barely visible to the eye but made itself known by slicing through my fingertips like a surgeon's scalpel. I ran upstairs to our first aider the wonderful Paul H in charge of stores, who scattered his customers pronto, sat me down and told me to empty the cupful of blood I was holding in my two hands. I'd been holding it to stop it from spilling and causing a slippage - ever the mother.  The adrenaline hid the pain while I struggled with the shock and I felt a bit woozy from the trauma.  Paul was fantastic to me. He stemmed the bleeding with great skill and it took a while, taped it up and Marnie, another staffer, very kindly drove me to hospital - but first I insisted on finding and removing the shard in case someone else copped an injury. Three hours and seven stitches later my Henry (with his seven broken ribs and clavicle) drove me home and I collapsed on the couch totally annihilated by the effort of holding it together all day. A strong drink was required but we only had champagne (such a tragic life I lead) and that was where I came unstuck. I emerged from a zombie like state a couple of hours later with this thought ... and here is another lesson for you my readers - 'very strong painkillers and drink is not a good combination'. It is plain stupid.  Don't do what I did. The scars are just visible from the injuries, a benefit of the sharpness of the offending shard and the very taut stitching the senior doc at RPH insisted upon.  The experience made me realise more fully what our eldest son had once endured when his fingers met with a router and resembled burst sausages - that was massive too.  Now I have to work out what my hand feels like when I throw.  Which brings me to a big TADAA moment introducing CIT CERAMICS WINTER SCHOOL.  

Coming up, 8-12 July, Northbridge, Perth, WA., A Clay Winter School at Central Institute of Technology! Heaps lined up from the cream of W.A. talent ... check CIT website for the full schedule and PDF on who will be offering what at our large state of the art clay studios. Sign up quick, limited numbers for small classes and the best learning experience for you. Tell everyone.

We have Sandra Black on moulds, Howard Bradfield on clay in high schools,  Elaine Bradley on intro to throwing and experimenting with print techniques, Njalikwa Chongwe - raku guru, Graham Hay of International repute on paper clay, Robyn Varpins on sculpture, Andrea Vinkovic on teaching clay in primary schools, and also on 'experimental techniques', she is magic with slip, and Warwick Palmateer on advanced throwing.  All are on board for what will be a busy, fun week.  YOU should come!

Loads more to tell you but for now, let's go to The Mud Colony blog to see what all the other clay pals are up to.  Ciao - Elaine Bradley, in Fremantle, WA.  

Friday, May 17, 2013


I find it handy to be an optimist, it saves so much down time working through the negatives and hurdles life can toss your way.  My man was thrown from his motorbike and hospitalized for several weeks.  It was scary, he lived and is healing – all good.  I came down with flu after my flu jabs – felt lousy for days, got through it, all good.  Tore two fingers up on a tiny shard stuck on a pot I was glazing, copped seven stitches -  oh God that was nasty, lived, and will heal.  That was very traumatic but my co-workers took great care of me at the time, they had my back. Now, all good.  It’s amazing how much you want to make stuff, knit, crochet and throw when your fingers say no.  We learnt that our sons will kick in and help if we remember to ask them to.  It is good; the team is there when needed.
Today I took one of my infrequent saunters through my town, Fremantle.  I figured the bad hand is useless, might as well get some new winter boots sorted and new shoes for a wedding we’re going to.  The morning was cool but warmed up nicely.  A sunny, pleasant day in Freo, watching folk do their stuff.  I was drawn by unusual choral sounds.  Outside the town hall large gaggles of serious schoolgirls in expensive private school uniforms congregated, going through their scales for an Eisteddfod.  It brought back memories of my school days and being in choir competitions.  It reminded me of being 15 again, which, while fun, is not something I’d wish to relive with the angst and insecurity that goes with it.  Better to be fifty and confident and in control of my life, even with the grey and the curves. 

An excellent busker stood outside a surf gear shop belting rock gems out with a passion.  My pal Ger’s husband used busk in Grafton Street, Dublin when we were 17, when U2 were just another Dublin band.  Happy days.  Ger and Hughie are both stars on the Irish folk circuit in Boston now.  I wished they were here.  

People sat at cafes relishing their coffees all along the Cappuccino Strip.  You could tell the tourists by their purposeful strides.  We don’t do purposeful strides much in laidback Freo darl!  We amble and saunter and ponder and relish.  Freo doesn’t do mainstream High Street stores too much, thank goodness. 

 I scanned some massively cool boutiques along South Terrace and scored a divine printed velvet tunic in Hypnosis and some ‘to die for’ tangerine suede sandals found among the silks and velvet desirable wearables in Love In Tokyo. (photo: That reminded me of my Cerise velvet coat I’d bought from the owner years ago, must dig it out, the kids of strangers hug me just to snuggle that coat and I have been asked to leave it in my will to my great pal Marion.  I usually detest shopping!  This way of finding gear works best for me and the stars were truly aligned, they must have heard about the stitches.

I called Marianna who works in Notre Dame University in Freo for coffee, she declined as she has the flu.  We laughed at our being such crocks after both enduring several stressful weeks and we planned a great dinner out in Freo with our guys once she’s well again.
Deep inside New Edition, the best book shop in Perth, down Fremantle High Street in what once was a huge old bank, the kind that can scare you – I tracked down my designer pal Deb McKendrick whose lush label is Velvet Sushi.  

New Edition has a café, a thrilling, eclectic selection of book titles and Deb’s boudoir like atelier, boutique.  I’m telling you – Freo can be heaven.  Look at this website here if you want to get an idea of where I live, the photo below is from that site.  It documents our City and environs very well.  

I treated myself to Olivier Dupon’s book The New Artisans, a hardback survey of contemporary makers, like myself, whose creativity drives us to immerse ourselves in our processes to make all manner of desirable gems in clay, cloth, wood and metal.  Oh boy I can't wait to devour that book.  

So, I came home feeling fortified and buoyant ready to clear the decks and start making again.  Twenty-four hours ago I was pressing my face into a quilt and crying in pain from neuralgia, exhaustion and misery, I’m not embarrassed to admit that.  Fortunately I found empathetic professionals and drugs that worked.  Yay for drugs -  the legal kind!  I wonder if I’ve turned a corner and instead of a bus about to hit me, there’s a flower garden instead.  I bet you I’m right.  It pays to be an optimist.  What do you think?  OK finished reading my mind?  Over to the Mud Colony to see what the potters are thinking.  

Sunday, April 28, 2013


While my fellow lucky potters are gathering and immersing themselves in all things ceramic way over at the big Gulgong clay event - I am home in Western Australia pondering the weird and the wonderful. in my own clay realm.  Take a look ....these are just out of the kiln.

First the weird - something very odd is showing up in a kiln load of student laser decal work.  What is this crazy, crispy, bubbly substance that is appearing on these mugs?  I suspect there was some kind of 'dressing' on the mugs over the glaze, perhaps some layer of low temp. ceramic gloss laquer, but that is just a guess.  They were fired to over 1060C - nothing in that kiln load is fusing properly and the work is all store-bought whiteware from various sources onto which we applied our laser decals from our own photos, drawings and sources.  They are being re-fired a tad higher.  Have you had this experience too?  I'd love to know your take on it please.

The wonderful?  I taught a holiday class of children last week at Central Inst. of Tech. Ceramics.  They had just been to see the Picturing New York photographic exhibition at the Art Gallery of Western Australia  (AGWA), then walked to TAFE for lunch in the grassy courtyard, then taken downstairs to the big ceramics studio to build their own skyscrapers with me.  They aged from 7 - 12 and were the best kind of kids, tuned in, interested and ready to express themselves in clay.  Architectural schools in WA watch out, in about twelve years some of these guys will be coming to turn your ideas on their heads.  In their concepts there were fairytale influences, one or two balconies, a few references to medieval buildings, some bunker like structures that seemed to reference either James Bond landscapes or a post apocalyptic cityscape - who knows.  My favourite was by a gorgeous chap whose roof on his round building sank a bit, so we called it a rooftop swimming pool to which he later added a large sphere - not a beach ball, just a big solid outside ball of clay.  I know I'd like a rooftop pool just like that.  He will be the founder of the WhyTheHell Not school of Design. There was a slide on another structure too, with SLIDE scratched into it just in case you missed its purpose, a tall building with a slide from the upper storeys - hell yeah, I'd like to live in their imaginary buildings alright.  
A Medieval air about this gem. 
Love the gargoyle sticking its tongue out at all and sundry.
Spectacular formal roof garden with trees!
Packing with newspaper to support a sagging roof on one's bunker style home.
Sunken rooftop pool with large sphere as focal point.  
The small building is to house the staff!
Scout the airdale terrier created after the first two skyscrapers were completed.
He called it a Shoe House and we decided the lower part was an underground room with skylights.
I had to agree that every tall building needs its own slide.  Well the lifts might be out!
A 'block' of skyscrapers on way to the drying room, I reckon there's a really cool bar just round the corner to the right!. See you there! 

I'd have liked to make proper straight sided, tall buildings from slabs but that would have taken massive preparation and I had no idea of what abilities would be coming to the class.  We went with rolled slabs curved around cardboard cylinders which had been wrapped in newspaper to allow it to slide off and release.  We also cut some lengths of freshly pugged cylinders of clay (they liked the imagery of a clay sausage machine) into which we pushed large blocks of wood to form the interior space, then peeled chunks off the outside with wire.  Boys seem to love stuff like that, especially the wiggle wires.  I'd been apprehensive really, I feared getting a class load of very demanding young folk but each one was a delight, as was their work.  

The photographic exhibition ends on the 12th May so you still have time to get in and catch it!  Stop prevaricating around the bush and just do it.  Come now to Mud Colony (click on the link to get there) bloggers to see what they are all up to, some of whom are in Gulgong, having a blast no doubt. 

But Wait!!  There's MORE!  Check out the new Facebook page for my workplace at Central Institute of Technology, Ceramics Studio.      Ciao, Elaine