Meet the Makers: Melbourne Ceramics Market

After a bustling and successful turnout of more than two thousand people for their launch event in August, Melbourne Ceramics Market is back bigger and better, showcasing over fifty emerging and established ceramic makers under one roof and aiming to create a vibrant marketplace that highlights and reflects the work of Melbourne’s finest ceramic talent.

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Tools of the Trade: Fiona McDonald of Ichimu

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

Tools of the Trade : Taë Schmeisser

By Brianna Read In this second instalment of Tools I have the great pleasure to introduce you to the inimitable Taë Schmeisser. A Melbourne based designer and jeweller, Taë’s creative background is as diverse as her jewellery collections – Taë has studied glass and ceramics and more recently engineering technology (jewellery) – her design collections utilise materials from glass through to felt. Diverse though her materials and methods of construction may be, a consistent thread throughout each range of designs is that of the body and more specifically objects to be worn on the body.

So you can understand why I chose to interview Taë about the tools of her trade – which tool could a designer like this not live without? The answer: a sketchbook and pencil. Of course! Taë also mentioned that she would be rather lost without her flexi drive drill but continued on to explain that the sketchbook is the constant player in her tool kit, she says “It’s not particularly ordered and there is a whole lot of chicken scrawl, torn out pages of magazines, photos, embarrassing and impractical ideas but it’s where it all starts.”

As a designer ever ready to embrace a new material, Taë mentions the importance of the material informing the tools. She says that with the development process of every collection the ideas have to work their way around the materials chosen. For her most recent collection, titled Architexture (launched this month under the label Bëuy), a range of wearable works of art have been created using German wool felt and metal. The results are quite simply striking.

With a genuine love of exploring new territory this is reflected in her choice of favoured tool – it is the point where the working through of an idea begins. The sketchbook is the ‘this is where I want to go’ part of the design process. Taë calls it ‘tumbleweeding’, in reference to the action of an idea rolling around in the head of the designer.

On the horizon she is looking toward a collection which returns to one of her early loves – glass; but she is certainly not traversing old ground. Always up for a design challenge, her designs are incorporating elastic, glass and metal. I for one cannot wait to see the fruits of that adventure…

Architexture by is available online at www.beuy.com.au and in store at The Queensland Art Gallery of Modern Art Shop.

Brianna Read is a designer-maker based in Melbourne. Her knitwear label Jack of Diamonds Knits 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.