STUDIO VISIT | Ceramicist Tessy King
Meet melbourne based ceramic artist Tessy King. As longtime fans of Tessy's sculptural hand built vessels, we we visited Tessy's studio in North Melbourne and chatted about her approach to colour in ceramics, her influences and daily studio routines. Photography by savannah van der niet
How did you discover your love for ceramics?
I have always been interested in making things and understanding how things are made and I love learning by doing. When I started art school I was enrolled in the Gold and Silversmithing studio at RMIT but as I'd had a fair amount of previous experience working with metal I swapped into ceramics for what was supposed to be the first year. I really just thought I would have a go with a new material and see how I could combine it with my jewellery making and small object practice. I ended up loving it, obviously. I found that once I understood some of the processes I could really see the potential in the material so much more than with metal. It's really magic.
Could you tell me a bit about how the visual language of your work developed?
My work tends to be deceptively naive in looks. I like a messy application of colour, glaze and even the structure of how things are put together. This is all really a result of my own confidence with the material which has built up over time. I used to think it was important for my work to appear well made but it's this looseness in my approach that's come with time that really gives these objects personality. I think it's now more obvious by looking at these pots that I've enjoyed the process of making them. The forms themselves are obvious playful references to antiquity.
What are your favourite points of interest and influences that have recently impacted your work?
Recently it's just been a new clay that I have started working with. A darker clay than the white stoneware that I usually use. My regular glaze fits the clay body perfectly and there's a richness on the surface where spots of brown come through. Yum.
Tell me a little bit of your philosophies towards colour and texture? Do you have any signature ways you approach this in your work? I love the tactile nature of your work and contrast between the beautiful lustrous glazes and matte coloured ceramic in your recent deconstructed ceramic vessels.
I love all colours and I feel lucky that I've chosen a material that so easily takes colour. I see the application of colour on my work as similar to painting. I think of the objects that I'm working on as a group and consider how the colours will interact- like a 3D painting. The colours I'm working with at the time really depend on my mood, the weather (this is a big influence actually) and what colour combo's I have noticed in the world around me that I'd like to mimic. It does tend to get a little out of hand though as I'm so open to experimenting while I work. Texture is also important- usually I use this to expose the material and the processes I use as much as possible.
How do you spend a typical day (or your favourite kind of day) in the studio?
I start late, around 12, as I usually spend the morning with my dog and doing a bit of admin. When I get to the studio I have to tidy up a bit and assess what needs doing asap. I'll either be hand-building, painting on underglazes, glazing, painting on lustres or packing kilns and unpacking or a combination of these tasks. I also drink a lot of cups of tea and chat with studio friends, eat snacks and wander along Errol Street looking for dinner options. My favourite days are when I get to open a lustre firing.
Do you have any rituals to help you focus or be productive in the studio? What do you listen to when you work?
I tend to be pretty focused if I have a deadline with or without music. I do listen to music constantly if I'm working alone though. I find that I have to be careful of what I put on as it really affects how my body and hands approach the clay.
Do you have any friends you love to studio visit?
I share half of my studio with my friend Bec Smith which is really lovely. When we're both in there working we have great chats and laughs. I love that about my studio actually- there's a lot of friendly faces around.
What are you excited about working on at the moment (any exciting projects on the horizon?)
I'm working towards two group shows at the moment. One that opens at Junior Space in Fitzroy on the 5th of October and one later in the year at Neon Parlour in Thornbury.
Where can we find your work! Mr Kitly, Craft Victoria, Pieces of Eight, Guild of Objects, Stockroom and Modern Times all have a few of my pieces.
What was your favourite style of jewellery from the range!
The Asta Earrings! They're so festive, so adorable. I also love the Chip Earrings which I own a pair of- when I wear them I feel powerful, like a wild 80's boss lady.