By Brianna Read
The subject of this month’s Tools of the Trade brought up a rather interesting idea in the discussion of creative practice – rules. With every trade comes a history of how the practice has grown and moved with time, there are always long lists of the recognised methods of practice and an equally long list of things which ought not be done. This particular idea was touched upon in an earlier Tools instalment and I was glad for the opportunity to get a little further into the topic – you see I am an advocate of bending and breaking rules… I am making my subject sound rather rebellious which is actually not the case at all.
Fiona McDonald makes objects of porcelain – under the label Ichimu (translated roughly from Japanese meaning a dream, or a fleeting thing). Everything about Fiona’s creative practices are as gentle and light of hand as the name implies. The rule breaking I referred to was from an almost off-hand remark Fiona made about why her ceramic practice brings so much pleasure: ‘Maybe it is because I don’t really know the rules about clay and porcelain that I love it so much.’
I adore these types of honest insights as they reveal so much about why we create. During the interview Fiona made mention of her love of children’s illustrations (those done by children rather than for them) and her appreciation of the honesty they hold. Her remark about not knowing the rules of porcelain and the link this may have to her enjoyment of the process revealed that she found for herself in ceramics what she appreciated in the unfettered and unpretentious expressions of children’s creativity.
Take a look at her work in Ichimu and it is not difficult to see the pleasure taken in creating it. When I asked Fiona to interview for this column I presumed that the effortless beauty in her ceramics had been from years of labored study and crafting with the medium of porcelain. I had no idea Fiona’s background was in fact in graphic design and pattern design for textiles. Indeed, Fiona was introduced to the art of ceramics by a friend relatively recently.
I think it is precisely because of her recent introduction to the medium and an absence of formal training that Fiona’s work stands out. I love that the hand and marks of the tool can be seen in the work – these pieces have a physicality which speaks of their production. Of course, her knowledge of and practice in the visual arts can be seen in her ceramic work. Each piece is hand built using a variety of tools and found objects and the surface treatment and colour sensibility of each collection of pieces clearly displays her talent for design.
While I wholeheartedly appreciate mastery in any medium and understand that rules are made often for very sound reasons; whenever I encounter an artisan who blazes their own trail through a quagmire of dos and don’ts I am reminded of the very reason why creativity exists: because it brings pleasure to those who create and those who behold the results.
Yet another invaluable tool for the kit of any creative: the ability to shirk the rules when they are hampering the enjoyment of the creative process.
More of Fiona’s porcelain work at Ichimu can be seen here and here. Her textile and graphic works have online homes here, here and here.
Brianna Read is a designer/maker based in Melbourne. Her knitwear label Jack of Diamonds employs traditional hand-made techniques in combination with machine knit technologies. Brianna’s multi-faceted creative practice encompasses design, production, works for exhibition and machine knitting workshops.