Echoes of Natural Forms
by Mike Hall
Carved lines, raised dots, curves and undulating contours feature on the surfaces of the black and white collection of hand-made ceramic porcelain tableware.
Amesbury makes bold marks on each piece, in the form of scraffito, embracing a long and rich tradition in pottery of abstracting forms from nature and the local landscape. Her choice of a monochrome palette, organic shapes and use of porcelain combine to make this collection thoroughly contemporary.
Amesbury works on the far south coast of NSW near Bermagui. Her inspiration comes from her experience of natural landscapes, and this collection draws on techniques honed from her past exhibition work.
“Capturing the essence of the land has always motivated my work wherever I’ve lived and worked,” she says. “I’m intrigued by the natural environment.” Amesbury grew up in West Australia, has studied in South Korea and in 2017 undertook a residency in Israel.
“Each landscape has offered me a wondrous opportunity to get to know the world in which I live - the colours of the desert, the unique light of Canberra, the sentient trees of the far south coast, the changing moods and colours of the ocean.”
The pieces in her Black + White porcelain range are slip cast and the scraffito patterns echo patterns in nature such as tree rings, shells or the horizon formed by a headland jutting out to sea. Lines and curves are carved through black slip or dots of white slip are trailed on top of black. The bowls are round, but the rims of saucers and plates are uneven and of varying thickness, an invitation to explore the form through touch.
She uses a transparent glaze for inside surfaces of bowls while leaving saucers and plates unglazed, creating a soft, matte surface. The work is once-fired to 1300 degrees centigrade so the porcelain is non-porous.
Amesbury has designed her Black + White range so that every piece works together, enabling buyers to select individual pieces to compile their own collection. It includes bowls of three different sizes, a saucer, medium plate and two serving bowls. While each piece is robustly made, they also have a sense of fragility that demands considered use.
Amesbury completed a visual arts degree specialising in ceramics at the Australian National University School of Art in 2002. Much of her subsequent exhibition work references function: porcelain bowls, vessels and plates, which incorporate found clays and other local materials, stamped into or painted onto surfaces. Her work has been widely exhibited in Australia and internationally.
This current commercial tableware range is something of a departure for Amesbury, who started with a trial collection at the Australian Ceramics Triennale in Hobart..
“I had some volcanic rock from New Zealand, which I’d used for my exhibition work, and a bucket of black slip sitting in the studio for years, so I decided to make something for the potters’ market at the Triennale,” she says. “It was very popular. Everything sold.”
It is also a pragmatic response to the times. The black summer bushfires on the south coast - which remarkably spared Amesbury’s house and studio - and the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic have made the already precarious occupation of an artist more challenging.
Amesbury sought and obtained funding from the Regional Arts Fund to develop and market this range of functional ware. The fund is an Australian government initiative to support sustainable cultural development in regional and remote areas.