With chain stores routinely copying the original designs of hard-working indie artists, it’s more important than ever to show some love to your local designers.
And what could be better than a piece that’s unique to you? Sydney ceramic artist Bea Bellingham hand-moulds and hand-paints “perfectly imperfect” works, including planters, mugs and jewellery – no two pieces are exactly alike!
Our far-and-away favourite is the booby print (because no two boobs are the same either!).
Bea also shares her magic around by running ceramics workshops in Sydney, which sell out fast (there’s also pizza and wine at some of them, so we can see why!).
She does her work in matching printed sets with names like Dorothy, Jane and Theo, so you can adopt a whole family for your kitchen shelf, or give as a gift with plenty of heart. For something extra special, you can even request a custom order.
We had a chat to Bea about her origin, inspirations, and future plans below.
Q: How did you find your way into ceramics?
A: My creative background is in Illustrations and fine art portraiture, but a few years ago I got myself stuck in a 2D rut after burning out on a solo exhibition. A ceramicist friend of mine suggested come over and play with some clay – she didn’t warn me how addictive it is! It seemed to combine my love of function and form, and made it an easy canvas for my illustrative style.
Q: There’s so much personality in your work – where do you get your inspiration from?
A: Ideas really do come from anywhere, although if I’m honest, most of the time I’m not too sure how they pop into my head. Almost always my patterns start as illustrations – I’ve a doodle sketchbook that’s filled with ideas. It might take several seasons of iteration before an illustration is ready to go onto ceramics as a new range. Other illustrations work straight away; the Sheila Boobie range made me laugh immediately which is a good litmus test to know if an idea’s good.
Q: Your unique pieces are so lovely! In the age of mass-produced chainstore goods, do you think we’re seeing consumers migrate back towards quality handmade work?
A: I feel that the maker movement has been brought to the foreground in recent years partly due to social media platforms such as Instagram has gaining popularity. It allows makers to invite the public into their world and explain just how much skill and love goes into their products. People have always liked to surround themselves with tangible items that explain their own personality and their uniqueness. Hearing the story of a maker they identify with feels good. It makes items you own extra special and unique – that a skilled maker has spent time to make something as if just for you.
Q: What drew you to running workshops? Has it been a rewarding experience?
A: For me, having hands in muddy clay is one the greatest joys in life, and something that I want to share with others. I’ve always learnt best by doing and I know I’m not the only one so the idea to run workshops was an easy step. There are a few basic ‘rules’ to hand built ceramics that you can learn quite quickly, and then your creativity can take over. Each group gets really excited by their own ideas and the possibilities of what they can make – it’s infectious and incredibly rewarding to watch!
From June this year I’m adding lots of new ceramic workshops with topics such as making teeny tiny vessels, animal sculptures and miniature houses. I’ve a new workshop just for makers on how to write a business plan.
Q: How do you challenge yourself in your chosen medium? Are there new skills / ideas you’d like to try out any time soon?
A: I’m lucky enough to have studio neighbours who are also ceramicists. We all hand build, but work in very different ways, with really different outcomes. It’s so handy to have someone right there when you’re stuck, or just to remind you to try a different direction.
Although I work on a 6 monthly cycle of ranges, I’m also constantly creating new one-off works at the same time. There’s some designs which end up in the next season, but some are just to challenge myself to find new directions.
Check Bea Bellingham’s wonderful work out at her official site, or via Facebook, Etsy and Instagram (@beabellingham).
Cecile Blackmore is a writer from Brisbane, Australia. She writes and edits at The Creative Issue and hoards vintage clothing – follow her adventures on Instagram at @saintcecile.