This week we were lucky enough to visit Melbourne based ceramicist, Kirsten Perry in her Preston studio.
Kirsten’s practice is based on translating everyday materials such as polystyrene, cardboard or foam into ‘bio-morphic’ objects in clay. Her ceramic pieces go through a process of transformation through the slip casting technique; whereby the imprint of the original material is imbedded in the piece as a texture, creating a lasting residue of its beginnings. This translation of somewhat ephemeral material such as cardboard into clay produces alarmingly beautiful, wonky pieces which escape a ‘heaviness” or gravity which is often associated with clay and ceramics. Perry is self taught with a background in Fine Art (Gold & Silversmithing), Industrial Design and Multimedia. She enjoys exploring vulnerabilities and flaws that occur as a natural part of making. Instead of covering or correcting these flaw or errors she prefers to highlight them, involving chance and elements of humour in the process.
Recently she collaborated with Mariana from APHA. LAB on a sweet ceramic burner - it is an all-over off-white colour with parts glazed and some left natural, featuring a short triangular block and abstracted flower-like shape atop it. It's a great example of her process - visible on many of the unique burners are polystyrene imprints, which tells us maybe this is the material she made one of her moulds out of! Strictly limited edition these burners come with ethically sourced Palo Santo sticks - only wood that has been found to have died naturally in the forest is used. Perry often straddles the line between functional object and art object, and it is a genuine joy to experience her pieces in the flesh, and also be inspired by them online…(you can see all that she is up to here)
We sat down with Kirsten and asked her a few questions about her process and how she goes about making.
Please scroll for Q and A and a series of photographs shot on film by Izzie Austin.
How long have you been making ceramics using the casting/carving technique (please tell me the correct terminology!) to make vessels/forms? How long till you realised the wheel or hand making method wasn’t for you?
I use the slip casting technique. Basically I carve shapes in polystyrene and paper destined for landfill and cast into plaster moulds. From there I pour liquid clay into the mould to create thinly layered ceramic replicas of the original sculptures. The beautiful thing about this process is the translation of foam and paper to clay. Every little detail and inconsistency gets translated into something ethereal. I got hooked on this process. Formerly I was hand building pieces and had been frustrated at my lack of wheel skills. The mould making process was something I learned about through studying Industrial Design.
Previously I was a jeweller using soldering and experimenting with two part polymers, both really toxic. I got cancer 20 years ago as a very young person so I was looking for a material less toxic and turned to clay. It's from the earth. From there I got hooked into the limitless possibilities and technical skills I had to develop. It's a mix of artistic creativity and scientific problem solving.
Ideally when I have a clean studio but that rarely exists. After yoga with a day ahead with no appointments. Preferably not a really hot or cold day when the natural light is streaming in.
Where do you draw inspiration? Art/Architecture or just everyday life?
Shapes and how shapes fit together and more recently, simple geometric shapes. It's all about relationships, how some things just fit – especially unexpectedly. There has to be some humour and joy in the shape, revealing vulnerability with a lightness. My inspiration comes in a more indirect manner, through comedy, connections, yoga and a level of self-acceptance. I know that sounds esoteric and wanky but hey.
What was the inspiration or idea behind the collaborative incense burner you made with APHA.LAB?
Mariana approached me and after reading bout her product and her approach I thought we were on the same page about a few important things like sustainability. Once we met and I realised how lovely she was and we got talking about concepts. We saw the burner as connected to ritual and meditation and the concepts developed from there. There was lots of trial and error to get it right. I really enjoyed working with Mariana as usually I work alone.
Do you have a favourite artist or designer?
Franz West is one of my favourite artists. I find his work playful, lyrical and honest.
Over the years you have done quite a few residencies - what can you say was the most challenging/rewarding part of making/working in a different country?I'm over travel for the sake of travel. I have to incorporate a spiritual or artistic element. Residencies are a great way to develop my skills, make new friends, absorb a culture, and produce a body of work inspired subconsciously in a way I was not even aware of. I love being surprised in this way. I do miss my dog though.
When you are working to a deadline, do you have a playlist or album that you play to get you in the mood? Or anything that you listen to in the studio that is particularly inspiring or helps you get into a creative headspace?
I've already worked out what I am going to do before I get into the studio. Ideas usually come to me when I'm at work, falling asleep, mediating or walking my dog. I have to be out of the studio to get ideas. Being in a calm headspace helps this. I listen to corny new age music when meditating.
What is your dogs name, and how did he/she come into your life?
Funf, which is German for five. I was living in Germany two years ago and got invited to visit ceramic artist Cecile Daladier @ceciledaladier in southern France. She has an amazing studio in a converted farm house with a naughty Lagotto called Moss. The day after I left I got online and found Funf in Victoria and arranged to get her on my return to Australia in another week. So I have an Italian water dog with a German name inspired by French Lagotto.
When you are not making, what do you like to do to relax?
Walk Funf, yoga, meditate and watch trashy and not so trashy tv series.
Images by Izzie Austin
Words by Gussie Vinall Richardson & Layout by Shelby De Fazio