Ceramic artist Tamasin Pepper creates work influenced by the The Natural Landscape, Its Colours, Shapes, Textures And Fluidity. She attempts to capture the “aesthetic moment and living spirit of the land”. Focus popped into her studio in Bellingen to find out more about this element of her work and see how some of it is created.
What is your connection to the Coffs Coast?
As a kid, I travelled up the East Coast with both my mum and dad. My dad bought a share, as a founding member, of Bundagen, so we started visiting this particular area more often and got to know Bellingen through trips to the shops for supplies.
How has this area influenced your work?
I have developed my domestic ware and experimented with glazes while living in Bellingen. My Drippy Green range featuring soft greens, composed of two glazes overlapping, reflects our surrounds in Bellingen. This valley and the shire as a whole, is more literally portrayed in large platter/bowls, which reference the mountains, meandering river and delta areas. One large platter, titled Mountains, River, Sea, was selected for the World Ceramic Biennale in Korea in 2008.
How do you incorporate the landscape into your ceramics?
I work with placing pieces of clay together in an organic, subconsciously random way, so there is a rich, uncontrived surface built up on fairly elemental forms. The process of making is revealed and left exposed to trap and pool colourants and glazes, which is reminiscent of the process of sedimentation of the land being built up inch by inch, with its history portrayed on its surface.
Some pieces are more literal, while others subtly reference an element of the land such as a pebble, shell, lichen or rust. Sometimes I embed actual found objects into pieces by allowing for shrinkage and inlaying pieces with glue, once the ceramic piece is fired.
Liquid porcelain or slip is used in some pieces for its smooth, white contrast with the dry, engobe surface. This can allude to eucalypts, sun glistening on water, or a meandering, fluid river.
Can you tell us about your travels and how this inspires you?
The experiences of travel and discovering other cultures with new aesthetics and practises is very rewarding, and it can’t help but be translated into your work in some form. South East Asia and East Asia in particular has a long tradition in, and esteem, for ceramics. I find the Korean and Japanese aesthetic extremely refined and beautiful. The Japanese aesthetic of Wabi-sabi is an influence, with its focus on a quietness and simplicity of form reflecting our natural environment, in all its perfect imperfection, a balance of defined against organic, a balance of opposites.
After spending time travelling in neighbouring countries like Indonesia, Vietnam, Laos and Thailand, I met so many travellers who had seen more of Australia than I had, that I decided to spend some time seeing Australia myself. I went to Tasmania, The Flinders Ranges and eventually by road to Alice Springs and back. The desert trips were amazing, with their vast horizons, red sands, spindly trees like twigs and an untouched spirit and rawness of nature.
What do you find rewarding about teaching others your craft?
Teaching ceramics keeps my ideas and interest flowing, as I see the love of the medium in my students. I realise how much I’ve learnt about my craft over the years that I would usually take for granted.
I have learnt a lot more about glazing and varied surfaces. This information is gleaned over time, with numerous firings and through trying out various combinations of glazes over the years in class. I can now pass this knowledge on.
Teaching has also made my art practice less solitary, and I have made some great friends over the years. It feels good to foster a friendly space, which encourages creativity and the sharing of ideas.
Can anyone join your classes, and what will they learn?
I teach all levels of experience in ceramics, and there is always something new to learn. For beginners, I take them through hand building techniques of pinch pots, coil, and slab building and then if they are inclined, throwing on the wheel. As students get more confident with the medium, I help them realise their ideas for pieces and facilitate ways to achieve them. We fire to 1,265 degrees and work with a variety of stoneware and porcelain clays.
You are a member of the Coastal ClayMakers Group. Can you tell us about this?
As a member of the Coastal ClayMakers, you are a part of a group of potters in the area all obsessed with making things in clay. There is opportunity to exhibit with the group annually, and monthly meetings – often with visiting ceramists – who give talks or workshops about their practice. I have also had the opportunity to demonstrate my processes at a couple of studio visits here hosted and organised by the Coastal ClayMakers. There is plenty of opportunity to learn from other potters both locally and from further afield. There is an inbuilt support network and audience for your work as part of the group.
What are your plans for current and future art making?
I will make pieces to supply Sturt Gallery in Mittagong, Flying Pig /Precinct Gallery in Berry and Kerrie Lowe Gallery in Sydney, and locally at The Bellingen Kitchen Shop, who stock some of my domestic range, or a members show at Nexus Gallery and with the Coastal Clay Makers. I usually try to organise one major show a year, and this year it was Along the Way, a solo show in March. I have also recently been involved in the second pop up show at The Art Space Gallery, in Urunga.
Where can we see more of your work locally?
I will have a stall at the Artisan Market as part of the Bello Winter Music Festival in July and at the annual Artisan Market at the Bellingen Showground in December. I will also have the occasional market stall at Bellingen Community Markets from July through to December.