Guest blog by Claire Ellis
I recently left my career as a chef to pursue ceramics full-time. I was working at the world-renowned Melbourne restaurant Attica as a chef-ceramicist after creating a studio within the restaurant when I decided I would love to spend my time in a different kind of creative environment and start my own business.
In June, three months after making the leap into my new career, I started a twelve-week artist residency at Northcote Pottery Supplies. I chose to make a hundred plates exploring form, food waste and creative practice and called it In Any Way Shape or Form. The title of the project is a playful reference to the freedom of using a wide variety of handbuilding and wheel-throwing techniques to create the work. In contrast with process, I chose to work within material and size constraints to keep form in focus.
A key material and symbol in the work is the egg. Each plate is glazed with a recipe I developed during the residency using eggshells as a raw material in place of the mined material called whiting. A healthy hen lays on average one egg a day, the same making schedule was adopted for the plates. The project is an exercise in productive creativity and the egg represents new life and creation. Eggshells are also food waste, a concern in my work and an issue intertwined with the use of plates.
I decided to focus on trying new things even if I didn’t know if they would work. By doing that I got clearer on the limits of clay in every stage of the process. I got clearer on what kind of conditions and mindsets encourage creativity and ways of trying to delay the valuable but often stifling editing/critical brain.
I learned how to successfully use eggshells in my glazes in place of the mined raw material whiting. A surprise bonus of the residency is that it started a new relationship with a local egg farmer that led to some exciting conversations and potential opportunities.
And of course, I learned a lot about plates. I spent a lot of time wondering: what makes a good plate? What I came up with is that besides how it’s made, it depends on who it’s for, why are they using it? Where is it going to be used? And what’s the occasion?
The Lockdown was a curveball that, like for many people, challenged me mentally and also challenged the making of the plates by having less space and equipment at home. The silver lining was having the residency goal and the accountability of it kept me busy and helped with motivation and focus.
I’m so grateful for the time I did get to spend at NPS, for all the conversations, the new friends, the pep talks and the resources. It was a very memorable three months.
I could not be happier for the hundred plates to be exhibited as my debut solo show In Any Way Shape or Form at Brunswick Street Gallery from the 18th of November to the 4th of December. In addition, there is an online showcase and pre-sale the 7th-24th of October as a satellite event in Craft Victoria’s Craft Contemporary festival. Twenty-five dollars from the sale of each plate will be donated to Ozharvest, Australia’s leading food rescue organization fighting food waste and working towards food security and sustainability. The donation from each plate will allow Ozharvest to deliver fifty meals.
You can find Claire's Directory link here.