Tag Archives: Canberra ceramics

Rare Earth with Avi Amesbury

It’s not unusual for Avi Amesbury to whip over to the side of the road when she sees a hole dug in the ground and scoop up clay. Those working on construction sites are often baffled but that doesn’t bother Avi.

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Avi uses materials she forages to create stunning ceramics in her art studio; pieces that celebrate landscape. And that includes the pieces showing alongside Rare Earth: Australian Made 2017, on now at the Courtesy of the Artist Loft in Sydney’s Strand Arcade.The exhibition is about Australian materials, gems, makers and their contemporary work. “The body of work I created to showcase with the exhibition celebrates the raw earth,” says Avi. “The earth is quite dominant even though the porcelain is quite translucent.”

A professional abstract landscape potter, Avi has for years explored her emotional connection to place and people. “I grew up in Western Australia on the edge of the desert and what struck me was the horizon—flat lines, stars, expansive land,” she says. “When I moved to Sydney this was lost for me, and the urban environment took its place. Then came Canberra where the light struck me. I had never experienced that type of light; it’s so different from anywhere else. On the South Coast, where I now live full-time, it’s the bush, which I find healing. And the very tall trees; I have a strong connection to the trees.”

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Rare Earth – Capturing Land And Light Series 6. Photography by Art Atelier

In the works being exhibited alongside Rare Earth, Avi has used material gathered from Barton and Holt here in the ACT. She stops a lot when travelling along the highway between Canberra and the South Coast to uncover material. She gathers material from the creek running at the bottom of her coastal property and she forages when visiting an artist friend in Newcastle and on visits back home to Western Australia.

“I’ve done a lot of research into using these materials and testing to see what colours emerge,” says Avi. “At first I thought I’d only get browns and oranges but I’ve discovered a much larger range of colours, and in all different shades, including whites, reds, greys and blacks.” It’s not just Avi who forages raw earth for her work. Her friends do too, and so does her family. “My daughter lived in New Zealand for 10 years and gathered rock ash from a volcano, which she collected for me. I’ve used it in the Rare Earth pieces and it has produced interesting textures to the work.” The new body of work made for Rare Earth includes small porcelain bowls, still-life installations and larger vessels titled Capturing Land and Light.

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Rare Earth – Capturing Land and Light Series 4. Photography by Art Atelier

Avi became a full-time practicing artist after retiring in 2016 as the Chief Executive Officer and Artistic Director of Craft ACT where she launched the Design Canberra Festival. She is an accredited professional member of Craft ACT.

Avi has big opportunities on the horizon. She has just been told, for example, that her work has been accepted for the 2017 Triennial of Silicate Arts exhibition, called Balance, being held at the Hírös Agóra Cultural Centre in Kecskemét, Hungary (80 kilometres south of Budapest). The exhibition (3 to 30 September), is being organised by the Foundation for Contemporary Ceramic Arts.

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Rare Earth – Untitled. Photography by Art Atelier

The Rare Earth: Australian Made 2017 exhibition is on until Saturday 29 July at the Artist Loft in the Strand Arcade (Level 4, enter by way of Pitt Street Mall). If you happen to be in Sydney, make sure you pop by. In the meantime, you can follow Avi on Facebook, or visit her website.

Ceramicist Margaret Brown Steps Up!

Stepping Up: Profile on ceramicist Margaret Brown. By Wendy Johnson

Black lines working their way mysteriously through southern ice clay. It’s Margaret Brown’s signature look and not an easy one to achieve.


Margaret is a top-notch ceramist who works from her studio in the quiet surrounds of the Bega Valley, New South Wales. These days life isn’t all peace and quiet, however. Margaret is getting ready to participate in two exhibitions being held as part of the prestigious Australian Ceramics Triennale, named Stepping Up in 2015, coming to Canberra this week (9 to 11 July). She’ll also be participating in the free one-day Market Day being held for the public at the National Gallery of Australia on 12 July (11am to 4pm). And she’s just placed some of her beautiful work in Agency, the new store that has opened by Craft ACT: Design and Craft Centre in the Ori Building, Braddon. Phew …

Porcelain is Margaret’s preferred medium. She’s drawn to it for its pureness and translucency.

Having created and wholesaled domestic pottery for 20 years, Margaret took a short break and then completed a Diploma in Visual Arts (Ceramics) at the Australian National University, focusing on porcelain. “My whole outlook changed when I went to university,” says the artist, who received a Technical Award upon completion of her course. Today Margaret creates domestic forms that are part of daily living, like mugs and beakers, but beautiful, unique pieces that combine function with quality craftsmanship and design.mbrown_01(1)

The black lines that make their way through her pieces—each one entirely individual—are about capturing movement within a space, says Margaret. “No two pieces are the same,” says this high-end ceramicist. “While I have control over the shape of the piece I don’t have complete control over where the black line travels. It’s about letting go a little bit to see what happens. It’s like watching bugs in the sky dash around. Where will they go?”MB throwing pots

But don’t be fooled. The technique Margaret uses has taken time to master and it requires a great deal of skill. “I put a slice of black clay into the white clay before throwing each piece. I have to throw very quickly on the wheel so I only get one or two lines,” says Margaret. “They don’t all work out. I’m not so keen on multiple lines … these pieces tend to go back in the bucket.” The process is based on an old Japanese method called Neriage which roughly translates into ‘to knead’ or ‘to mix’. The colour is diffused on the inside and outside of each piece and the lines capture the movement of clouds as they drift by.mbrown_06

Margaret also creates lamps out of translucent porcelain, which are slow but relaxing and rewarding to produce she says. The hand carving of one lamp can take up to 12 hours. “These lamps can’t be slip cast like commercial products can,” she says. “I sit and hand-carve them so each one is unique. I carve possums, frogs, kookaburras, horses, Australian nature—the things I see in my everyday life.”

Since 2002, Margaret has held several exhibitions in Canberra and NSW. As part of Stepping Up, she is participating in two of the 35 free public exhibitions that will be held across the city. Her work features in Belonging: embodied commentaries inspired by place, which is on now and will carry through to 11 July at the ANU School of Art Foyer Gallery. This is a must-see exhibition of the works of more than 150 members of the Australian Ceramics Association.

Margaret’s work will also be in Stomping Ground, which features the work of Craft ACT-accredited professional members. The title refers to frequented or favourite locations and references between the ground and each artist’s chosen medium of clay. Other ceramicists participating in this exhibition are Avi Amesbury, Sarit Cohen, Linda Davy, Cathy Franzi, Bev Hogg, Ian Jones, Anita McIntyre and Gail Nichols. It’s on now at the ACT Legislative Assembly and will close 15 July.


At the Market Place, Margaret will have on hand her black and white creations. This is a unique chance for Canberrans to talk to, and buy from, 30 ceramists, including several who have never shown in Canberra before.

For a complete list of free public exhibitions being held during Stepping Up—with some underway now and some extending into August—and a list of the ceramicists who will be at the one-day-only Market Place visit the Australian Ceramic Triennale website.

The Australian Ceramics Triennale starts this week.



Credits—Artist: Margaret Brown, Images: Andrew Trousdell

Margaret Brown