Ceramic artist Georgina Proud creates work that looks like fire and snow all at the same time. Georgina's natural affinity for the Australian landscape is apparent in her ceramic pieces which are gently curved and naturalistic in appearance. The earthy colours of the clay show through matt and glossy glazes, creating pottery with a tactile quality. 'They're made to be enjoyed and held in your hands,' said Georgina.
Georgina's making space
Outside, it is a chilly Melbourne morning. The only sound in Georgina's North Melbourne studio is the whir of her pottery wheel. The studio space where Georgina creates her ceramics is small and neat. The walls are mainly bare, with only a few chosen postcards stuck on the wall above her desk as inspiration. She is also inspired by Japanese pottery and the work of other potters including Bridget Bodenham.
Georgina has set up her studio space simply, with shelving, her wheel and a raw timber table, 'Having the right equipment is really important,' said Georgina. On the studio shelves sit finished ceramic pieces. Georgina shows me a round pot which she has glazed with a traditional Japanese Shino treatment. With its rusty red hues, mottled whites and multiple specks, Georgina describes the Shino glazes' intention is to appear to be like 'snow falling on the ground.'
Georgina creates her own stoneware clays using a mix of dark and light clays. She has also been experimenting with developing her own glazes. 'I use wood ash in some of my glazes, usually red gum ash and that will put a speckle through it.'
The tea pot sitting in pride of place in her studio is a piece that Georgina is most proud of. It's one of her pieces that have been fired in a wood fired kiln. 'It was just the most amazing experience. You were so much more involved in the firing process. You kind of went on the journey with the pots.' The process of wood firing was very different to using her electric kiln. 'We looked in the kiln and you can see the flames travelling around the pots. So that one (the tea pot) is super special to me.'
All of Georgina's pieces are functional, fired at stoneware temperature for durability. Whilst it may be tempting to keep her work on display, they are designed to be used. 'If someone has bought something and they tell me a year or two later that, 'Oh that's my favourite mug and I use it every day,' that's the most lovely thing that I could hear.'
From hobby to business
Georgina's practice has grown from a hobby to a small business in a short space of time. Having worked with clay in high school, she rediscovered her love of pottery in the last couple of years. 'I really just loved it from the moment I started doing it and so just kept wanting to do it more and more.' Initially setting up her wheel at home, Georgina now works in her North Melbourne studio where she comes in one day during the week and also on weekends.
Her business grew organically. Selling her wares at markets has provided her with positive feedback and created demand for her work. As people began to ask her to make things, her confidence grew. 'People were really supportive and would comment and say, 'I love that' or 'Can I get one for my mum', so it just sort of started and I was like 'Oh, maybe this is a thing that I can actually have a little business out of.'
She finds the opportunity to discuss her work process with the other potters in the studio and the students at the School of Clay and Art invaluable. Georgina values the support of her friends, including artist Indigo O'Rourke. 'A lot of my friends are also creative women and so I find I get a lot of support from them.'
Whilst Georgina works she listens to podcasts, except when she is working on a complicated piece which requires her full attention without distraction. 'I find that I get really drawn in and I get into that state of flow.' She currently balances her art practice with her job as a project officer at WIRE Women's Information. She also takes pottery classes at the School of Clay and Art. Recognising the need for self-care with her competing demands, Georgina said, 'I have to make sure I give myself a break as well.'
As wheel work can be physically demanding, Georgina ensures that she takes breaks which not only helps her body but also her concentration. 'I think you gradually build up the muscles so it's not too bad, but you have to remember to stop every now and then and maybe walk around.'
Georgina's advice to other women thinking about pursuing their art practice is simple. 'Don't be afraid to say yes to opportunities, you never know where they'll lead.' She is inspired by Amy Poehler who said, 'Do things before you're ready.' Georgina cautions against waiting for the right time, 'You've got to just do it and see what happens, if it doesn't work, what's the biggest thing that will happen? You know, you just keep trying.'
Georgina will be part of the new Melbourne Ceramics Market on August 6 at Workshop Melbourne.
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Jenni Mazaraki is an artist, designer, writer and podcaster who helps women tell their stories. She is particularly interested in the ways that women make time and space for creativity. You can see more of Jenni's work at www.localstoryspace.com or on Instagram @localstoryspace or Facebook
Photos and video production by Jenni Mazaraki.