It has been a bit since I posted anything in my blog - and today I decided to get back on track with more from my 2019 visit to Australia. I haven't finished mentioning some of the fantastic potters, ceramic artists, and sculptures from Western Australia and I have yet to get to Brisbane, Sydney, and Melbourne too! So back on track...
Cher Shackleton was described by many as the 'matriarch' of the ceramics scene in Western Australia, so of course I had to stop in her studio for a chat.
Cher is pictured in the gallery filled with her work just before entering her teaching studio space. 40 years a potter as of 2019, Cher mentioned she was just prepping the studio for a "hen party" and just had time for a cuppa and some chips for lunch. Cher still wood fires two kilns at a time (a 24 hour firing Anagama and a 72 hour firing kiln) with only a tiny bit of human help and a log splitter nearing its end which "might be telling her to slow down a little bit", but she keeps very busy. Her kilns are named "Vesuvius" and "Kilimanjaro" which I found quite fitting as she drew me a 'mud-map' to visit another potter close-by.
Something interesting that I don't think a lot of East Coast USA wood-firing potters often have to think as much about is the seasonality of wood-firing in Western Australia. Cher salt fires her wood kilns and can only do so when the threat of wild-fires is low - which base on the 2020 fire reports from Australia was a hard fire season.
More of Cher's work and studio pictured above. You can visit her studio online via her website: http://shackletongallery.com/
On the side, in her spare time, Cher knits, weaves, and builds 3D books (which are amazing!). Her answers to my 3-questions for visits while in Australia were:
1. Besides the main tools of a ceramic studio - what is one tool you cannot live without? Her Brain! (great answer!)
2. What gives you pure joy? - The cone 10 cone falling in the kiln - and not necessarily the reveal.
3. If money were no object, what would life look like to you? Not a thing different!
Cheers to Cher Shackleton for taking some time in October 2019 to chat and share with me the good-life she's been living as a potter in Western Australia.
Njalikwa Chongwe Ceramics - Zinongo Gallery - Cher's "mud-map" led me to Zinongo Gallery in South Fremantle and at this point I was getting quite adept at driving on 'the other side' of the road and car!
Njalikwa and his partner, Jacqueline, established this dreamy studio and gallery combination space 30 years ago. It overlooks the Indian Ocean and on a clear day can see views of Rottnest Island. Njalikwa makes a combination of low fired Raku and high-fired stoneware from the space.
One of the first questions many beginning ceramics enthusiasts ask other clay artist's about is their finishing techniques. This was one of the striking qualities of the work in Zinongo Gallery; however, as a potter for 30 years myself, I know it is the piece that many potters strive to perfect throughout their time with clay and not easily explained in a short gallery visit.
Njalikwa answered my 3-questions as well:
1. Tools cannot live without? - Perfectly functioning kiln.
2. What gives pure joy? - Laughingly explains - A day off! (In October 2019 he was splitting his time between Central TAFE Tech, his studio, and he also teaches on the side.
3. If money were no object what would life look like? Still doing what he does now - Travel and Trim pottery!
Check out more of the happenings at Zinongo Gallery via the webisite: https://www.zinongo.com.au/
Jenny Dawson - When I visited J Shed in October 2019, I unfortunately didn't get to meet Jenny Dawson; however her work definitely should be checked out when in Western Australia. Jenny has numerous public art works and I did get to visit one large installation right in downtown Perth:
BHP Water Playground in Elizabeth Quay - Perth, WA - Titled "Pinjah" (the Whajuk word for Tadpole) - Designed by and in collaboration with award winning Native Australian artist, Sandra Hill in 2016. The mosaic installed at the bottom of the playground depicts water winding its way through the playground with the smaller blue circles representing Hyde Park Lake and Lake Monger, the only two remaining lakes that are left in the greater Perth area. The black circle is representative of the ongoing presence of the Noongar people of South Western Australia and the red circle is a symbol of the blood of the people, in the past, the present and the future.
What is most remarkable about Jenny's public art work to me is that she has an obvious passion for executing works in public spaces that provide a voice for others. Her most recent work during the pandemic includes a memorial constructed for ladies who lost their babies due to forced adoption including messages of love for their lost children. This work has been installed in Read Park in the Town of Victoria Park.
Danica Wichtermann is another Perth potter who I would have loved to have met as I connected with the botanical elements and execution of her work that I saw in several galleries throughout Australia. Danica runs a teaching studio and keeps quite busy raising a family as well.
Using multicolored Sgraffito and Mishima techniques, Danica captures the flora and fauna of the Western Australian landscape beautifully in her works:
Danica's Website can be found here: https://www.rediscovering.com.au/
Fleur Schell is another artist in Perth I would love to see in action when next I am fortunate to be in the Australia. Her work was prevalent throughout every fine gallery I visited in Australia. It has a unique style unto her own and the personalities depicted in the character sculpture are just completely uplifting! Check out some of Fleur's work on her website: https://www.fleurschell.com/