Buvette Masthead

Stepping Up: Celebrating creative ceramics

Wendy Johnson

When you enter the world of ceramics, you discover a rich and telling history. Think way, way back to when ceramics formed basic objects for survival but also to magnificent pieces of art fit only for Kings. Humanity’s love affair with ‘burned earth’ continues to this day and will for centuries to come.

Next week, Canberra will celebrate ceramics when the capital hosts the prestigious Australian Ceramics Triennale when it opens 9 to 11 July. Artists and ceramic experts will gather here from across the city, the country and the globe to showcase work, expand skills and share ideas, during the three-day conference.

But more than that, Stepping Up — the name of the 2015 Triennale — offers a great deal for the public, including 35 free exhibitions across the city and a one-day Market Place at the National Gallery of Australia where 30 high-end ceramicists will be on hand to talk passionately about and sell their painstakingly made work.


Girl Nomad Ceramics

Avi Amesbury, CEO/Artistic Director at Craft ACT — herself a ceramicist — says the Market Place is a unique opportunity for the public to see a wide range of incredibly interesting ceramic work, including by artists who have never exhibited here before. Local ceramicists will be celebrated as will other big names such as Janet DeBoos, Johanna DeMaine and Mollie Bosworth.

The Market Place, also free to the public, promises something for everyone, from everyday tableware and household items, to jewellery, to one-off, exquisite pieces that will be sought after by avid collectors.

The diversity of the full body of work at the Market Place and the 35 exhibitions is exciting and fascinating, says Avi. It showcases the many ways pieces are built and fired, including slip casting, thrown, hand built, wood fired and even soda fired. It also includes the many ways pieces are treated on the surface, such as with printing, motifs, decals and hand carved.

Bosworth Mollie

Mollie Bosworth

Each state and territory will be bringing a show to Canberra. International delegates will join forces in an exhibition at the ANU School of Art Gallery, offering a chance-of-a-lifetime opportunity to see works by ceramicists from Canada, France, India, Taiwan, the United Kingdom and United States.

Other exhibitions will be held in galleries such as Bilk Gallery, Beaver Galleries, Canberra Museum and Gallery, Craft ACT, M16 Artspace, Nishi Gallery and Drill Hall Gallery. Pop ups will appear here, there and everywhere throughout Braddon, including at retail shops such as Assemblage Project in the Ori Building.

It’s all the more interesting given Australia’s relationship with ceramics, which is truly unique.

“Our history is very short compared to, for example, the Korean and Chinese cultures where the tradition of ceramics particularly porcelain, goes back centuries,” says Avi.

“We don’t have such a long history. Australia’s focus on ceramics took hold in the 1970s with influential English potter David Leach. This sparked to a huge studio and pottery movement in this country.


Trenna Langdon

“This means that Australian potters are not influenced by deep tradition, or techniques handed down from generation-to-generation, but rather are “free” to create without any cultural boundaries,’ says Avi. ‘It doesn’t mean we don’t immerse ourselves in the work of other cultures but when we do we reinterpret it in our own way. You can really see this in the work of top-level Australian ceramicists.”

Stepping Up is managed by Craft ACT, in partnership with the Australian Ceramic Society, Canberra Potters’ Society, Strathnairn Arts and Australian National University.

The free Market Place will be held Sunday 12 July, 11am to 4pm, National Gallery of Australia’s Gandel Hall. The NGA will be offering two free guided tours of the Australian Decorative Arts at 12pm and 2pm.

The 35 free exhibitions vary in dates and times (with some on now). Check the website for details.

Wendy Johnson

Wendy Johnson graduated with a Master’s Degree in Journalism from Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada, a few decades ago. She’s been living in Australia since 1995, having fallen in love with eucalypt trees and kangaroos. Wendy is passionate about Canberra and all the nation’s capital has to offer. She loves to write (about everything and anything) and owns her own pr and advertising business. More about the Author