Selection Panel + Prize Announced! Makers’ Film Festival.

We are delighted to announce the Selection Panel + a Prize for the 2021 Makers’ Film Festival:

Mary Ellen Cliff and Carola Akindele-Obe, the ‘dynamic duo’ who produce Maker&Smith including the new Makers’ Film Festival, will be joined by two fellas who bring a breadth of knowledge (and connections) in visual story-telling to the table – and we are so pleased to award one film with a Peoples’ Choice Award of $1000, after the screenings in Western Australia.

Screenwriter, Novelist & Storyteller JOHN COLLEE
Prior to becoming a successful screen writer, John Collee worked as a doctor in remote locations including in Madagascar and the Solomon Islands.  He is a founding member of climate change group 360.org and of Hopscotch Features; and is known for feature films including Master & Commander, Happy Feet, Hotel Mumbai, Tanna and Creation.

Storyteller, Maker & proud Bardi man RON BRADFIELD JNR
Ron Bradfield Jnr is a saltwater man from Bardi Country, north of Broome. He lives and breathes story-telling; indeed he is known for yarn-ing, and encouraging everyone to share their stories in his workshops and sessions with Yarns R Us.  Ron has also supported artist’s to develop their craft and stories across country in WA for over 15 years and is also a maker of things.

If your film explores making, skills and materials, the selection panel would like to see it.

The deadline for short film submissions is fast approaching on 30 November 2020. It’s encouraging to see entries coming in and we are really looking forward to more – especially as in recent COVID-19 times, people have been making use of film-making a lot more as part of their presentations for exhibitions, international forums, and fairs. So – please share the call-out widely with your networks (we want to make sure John and Ron have plenty to watch!).

What will the selection panel be looking for?

We are looking for films with a strong creative narrative. And to bring together a collection that illustrates the breadth and wonder of craftspeople’s lives, skills, environments and materials from across cultures in Australia, New Zealand and countries of the Indian Ocean Rim*.

All genres are encouraged, from documentaries, to story-led films to hand-made animation. We are keen to see a range of approaches in both craft and film-making. Maker & Smith encourages submissions from every corner of our community and which celebrate the diversity of life.

Quick Info Reminder
  • Films must have been made since 1 January 2017.
  • Short films only. They can be a few seconds long, and although we’d prefer no longer than 10 minutes, we will accept up to a maximum of 15 minutes including credits.
  • Easy to submit. Just fill out the online form and send us a link.
  • Deadline for submissions: 30 November 2020.
  • Entry Fees and T&Cs apply: $55 (inc GST) per submission.

The Makers’ Film Festival is due to launch in May 2021 in alignment with the program launch for the first Indian Ocean Craft Triennial (aka IOTA21). The intention is that the compilation of films will then travel around Australia, as Real to Reel: The Craft Film Festival has done since 2018, and then traverse the waves for screenings, particularly in countries where films originated.

Read our previous post about the MFF and how its brand came together.

Makers Film Festival information and easy submission form.

*AUSTRALIA, BANGLADESH, COMOROS, INDIA, INDONESIA, IRAN, KENYA, MADAGASCAR, MALAYSIA, MAURITIUS, MOZAMBIQUE, OMAN, SEYCHELLES, SINGAPORE, SOMALIA, SOUTH AFRICA, SRI LANKA, TANZANIA, THAILAND, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES, YEMEN.

Featured image: Luthier in Workshop. Photo by Endri Yana from Pixabay

Q&A – maker of the week: Jonathan Hook

A Potter’s Life.

  If you live in the Great Southern region of Western Australia, or you are visiting there, you must go and see Jonathan Hook at his self-designed and built studio and gallery atop a hill with fabulous views, just outside Denmark.

Jonathan is a prolific potter, a master craftsman.

Read on …

What is your craft? How do you like to describe yourself?

I’m an artist that works with clay producing tableware and sculptural works. I make and exhibit my work in a studio and gallery that I designed and built myself.

Your studio – where and what is your studio/workspace like?

I’ve been on this property for 38 years. I grew out of my old studio, so I decided to put together a project that encompasses a restaurant, gallery and a studio that is 900 square metres. I’ve just built the new 500 square metre studio that I’m in now. I’m still pinching myself about it. It’s a work in progress, the kilns have only recently been moved in and I am still setting up and catching up on production. I’m currently making tableware predominantly.

Which of your tools do you love the most and why?

My tools are my hands. I don’t use a lot of tools. My style of work is very much a turned product, so apart from my hands I’d say my turning tools would be my most favoured tool.

Your inspiration – what really pumps your creative heart?

My inspiration predominantly comes from landscapes. I’m a landscape painter and interpreter. I moved to the Great Southern 40 odd years ago after I studied. This region is a source of amazing inspiration for me.

I have been looking at this landscape for a very long time and previously had a love/hate relationship with it. How does one respond and interpret such a vast and diverse landscape? I want my work to transpose the essence of the landscape into a written, drawn and sculpted work. In a way, I don’t think this has been done in a very intellectual, inspirational way yet.

Jonathan Hook Studio Ceramics

Jonathan Hook Studio Ceramics

What was the spark that made you choose this particular medium?

I had a love of clay from a very early age. Ceramics is a combination of the arts and science. It’s very much a geological process, there’s a lot of chemistry involved.

Your working style – how do you like to start on a project and then progress it? Do you stick to a working schedule 9-5 or flex around a bit? Do you play loud music? Are your pets welcome in your space?

I work on a lot of stuff at the same time because it’s that kind of medium. Nothing happens immediately. It’s a two steps forward, three backward kind of process. Even with tableware it can be a twelve month process developing the style and glazes. I work pretty much 9-5 and I listen to all sorts of stuff on the radio while I’m working from ABC Radio National to Triple J.

What are you working towards right now?

I’m working on finishing building my studio and I’m back to production this week. I’m doing three jobs at the moment but I’m doing my best to get back to my studio and start making.

If you could land the dream commission/exhibition/project, what would it be?

I don’t generally do commission work and I exhibit in my gallery every day. I hope I inspire people that way. I moved away from exhibiting in other people’s galleries early in my career to having my own gallery.

[Collected July 2020. This is a standard set of questions that we ask of all our guest presenters and ‘makers of the week’. They are deliberately low-key.]

Read more about Jonathan Hook in our Directory, where you can find further links to follow Jonathan online.

 jonathanhookceramics Spray booth is up and running...things are moving along nicely.

Spray booth is up and running…things are moving along nicely.
@jonathanhookceramics

Q&A – maker of the week: Susie Vickery

A Stitching Storyteller.

Susie Vickery is a time traveller and globetrotter, armed with needle and thread, on a mission to tell important and intriguing stories. Although now mainly based in Fremantle, Western Australia, she works across three continents, with benches also in London and Mumbai. Since we met Susie a couple of years ago, she has completed some impressive exhibitions and projects; it seems her imagination knows no bounds, and we are always intrigued to see what she is working on next.

Read on …

What is your craft? How do you like to describe yourself?

I am an embroiderer and costume maker who makes embroidered automata and stop motion films. I also make articulated puppets, embroidered portraits and whatever else can be used to tell a story.

Your studio – where and what is your studio/workspace like?

I have a little wooden room upstairs in our house, in Fremantle. I painted the ceiling pale blue and there are a LOT of shelves to house all my threads, fabrics, buttons, books and works in progress. It is my first separate workroom since my costume making days over 20 years ago, so I am expanding my work to fit the space.

In our London flat our main room is divided into dining room, lounge, kitchen and workroom. So I am in the centre of all the action there working on my favourite piece of furniture, an antique tailor’s bench.

Which of your tools do you love the most and why?

My tailor’s thimble without a doubt!

This comes from my theatrical tailoring days and I can no longer stitch without one. A tailor’s thimble differs from a normal thimble in that it has no top, you push the needle with the side of the thimble rather than the top. They are quite hard to buy in a small size (most tailors are men, I suppose). The only place where I know that I can always get one is in a tiny hole in the wall haberdashery shop in the old centre of Kathmandu. So I stock up when there as I have thimbles stashed everywhere; in pockets, pouches, drawers and bags. I fear being without one.

Your inspiration – what really pumps your creative heart?

I love the act of stitching, so seeing some gorgeous coloured threads always inspires me. But what really excites me is thinking about telling a story in some way with an embroidered object. I love making the puppets and automata, and enjoy the problem solving in getting the shapes and the movements right. I am also really inspired when researching new subjects and putting a whimsical, decorative slant on their stories.

Susie Vickery, Citizen Botanist prepared for a pandemic with loo roll

Susie Vickery, ‘Citizen Botanist prepared for a pandemic’, 2020. Photo: S Vickery.

What was the spark that made you choose this particular medium?

I have been sewing ever since I was a little girl and was so lucky to be able to turn it into a career, making costumes for theatre for many years.

We then went to live in Kathmandu and I started studying embroidery by distance learning, (pre online learning days, it was a case of posting work and waiting for the snail mail response.) In doing this, I discovered a whole world of embroidery with its many many layers, of technique, of history, of materials, and of expression, and a lifetime of joy opened up.

Your working style – how do you like to start on a project and then progress it? Do you stick to a working schedule 9-5 or flex around a bit? Do you play loud music? Are your pets welcome in your space?

The ideas sometimes come fully formed, and then I spend the rest of the time experimenting with technique and materials. If I am working towards an exhibition I will ponder for a while, turning ideas over and over. Often the solution comes to me on first waking. Then I do lots of research. I like projects that have a historical link so I read and read around the topic. Then I start playing with ideas.

With the automata I have an idea of what movement I want to show, but getting to that end involves a lot of experimentation.

I work when I can and as much as I can. I love rainy weather because I can just sit inside and work. And long plane trips are great for uninterrupted stitching.
I listen to the radio when I work, usually Radio National. In London it is BBC Radio 4. But if I am concentrating then no sound at all.  I don’t have pets, but the odd gecko lies in the sun on the window sill.

What are you working towards right now?

I have several projects on the go at the moment. I am making a long panel for a WAFTA exhibition at the Holmes à Court gallery in September (2020). It is an embroidered puppet of a skeleton against a background of an embroidered timeline of quotes about the exploitation of workers through history. Cheery stuff!

I am also working on some embroidered portraits for a competition, teaching several embroidery courses (some with Maker&Smith and some online), and planning my entry for Tied Up With String at the Mundaring Arts Centre. For this exhibition I am going to make some miniature embroidered shoes to go into the box that we are all given.

Then when these projects are done I will start making for the big Indian Ocean Craft Triennial next year. Lots of ideas are churning around and I am looking forward to getting stuck into making them.

If you could land the dream commission/exhibition/project, what would it be?

My dream job would be to work with a puppeteer to make some puppets and their costumes to enact a historical drama or story. I would love to collaborate in this way as I have no skill in manipulating a puppet and would love someone to bring them to life.

I have also discovered, after making Peregrinations of a Citizen Botanist, that I really enjoy making small scale costumes. So the show would have to be historical, which would also fit in with my love of telling these stories. It would be a show aimed at an adult audience as I feel that kids get all the good puppet shows. It’s time that we got to enjoy the medium more.

[Collected 13 June 2020. This is a standard set of questions that we ask of all our guest presenters and ‘makers of the week’. They are deliberately low-key.]

Read more about Susie Vickery’s illustrious career so far and enjoy learning and spending time with Susie at her workshops.

Maker&Smith are delighted to host three workshops with Susie Vickery: Embroidering Stories in August, September and October 2020, at Camelot, a beautiful art deco memorial hall and theatre in Mosman Park, Perth.

Q&A – maker of the week: Bethamy Linton

Hammering away, delightfully.

Immersed in the family business of metalsmithing practically from birth, Bethamy Linton started formally working with her father making silver flatware and restoring antiques from the age of 16. Later she trained formally and also in apprenticeships and mentorships in fine jewellery, art and object design.

In this short (and sweet) Q&A, Bethamy gives us a snapshot of her making world and how she upholds the mantle of being a fourth generation silversmith and jeweller.

Read on …

What is your craft? How do you like to describe yourself?

I’m a silversmith.

Your studio – where and what is your studio/workspace like?

When I first answered this question in March 2019, I had three! But it was one too many to handle; so now, since early 2020, I have just two (phew)!

I gave up my city pad, where I did small scale hand makes and taught in a shared space with six other artists. Now I can spend more time in my Gidgegannup workshop, as my son is in school five days a week (theoretically). The workshop is housed in what used to be an emu incubator; it is beautiful, surrounded by trees and filled with things I love.

I am also renovating my family’s workshop in Maylands where I make larger scale silverware and need to make a lot of noise and mess. I’m planning to hold classes and workshops there. It’s filled with generations worth of metal, tools, dust, grime and love.

Which of your tools do you love the most and why?

Oh, I don’t know! I have a lot to love. I love my rolling mills because they have facilitated so much for me.

I have a beautiful collection of hammers too, some are new and purchased from Germany with the help of my beloved mentor Hendrik Forster; others are well used and loved by my father (I have an excellent raising hammer that he brought back from England in the 1970s when he went to study at uni’ there) and others that were my grandfather’s, like the chasing hammer that I use to make my icons, which have now become indispensable to me.

I also recently bought a PUK5 welder which is changing my life, one job at a time.

Your inspiration – what really pumps your creative heart?

Most of my visual references begin somewhere in the natural environment; I am mostly diverted by native flora and fauna, especially those with which I have a personal relationship, and then also by history and the passage of time.

I love challenges in my creative work, I like to continually build new skills and I like making work that surprises me.

Bethamy Linton, Heritage collection pendants, Western Australian wildflowers, in the traditional Linton Sterling Silver style

Bethamy Linton, Sterling silver Heritage Collection pendants, Western Australian wildflowers, in the traditional Linton Silver style for Mundaring Arts Centre.

What was the spark that made you choose this particular medium?

It was always there, I grew up surrounded by it; that smell of metal and grease.
(Read more about Bethamy’s ‘immersion’ below.)

Your working style – how do you like to start on a project and then progress it? Do you stick to a working schedule 9-5 or flex around a bit? Do you play loud music? Are your pets welcome in your space?

My process has changed a lot since I had a child; I used to immerse myself in work. I used to sit around and think about it for hours. Now I just have to use the time I have and tear myself away when I need to go back to my family with my whole self.

I try to stick to a schedule, and I try to pace myself so I’m not up until dawn on projects anymore. I love having pets in my space, for 10 years my dog was my constant studio companion, I also had a lamb at foot that I was bottle feeding for a time.

Mostly I like quiet, but sometimes I’ll listen to music or a podcast.

What are you working towards right now?

Balance!!! No really – I’m trying to build my classes as a part of practice that delivers a regular income. I’m also working on finding a way to streamline the production of Linton Silver and separately I have a hollowware commission that is leading and supporting a new body of work (vessels) that I have wanted to lean into for some time… as well as other jewellery commissions and silverware orders.

Update: I’ve been shifting my practice a bit this year [2020]; focusing on higher end jewellery pieces as a product line to better support my commission practice (as I seem to have come across a lot of high end jewellery commissions lately). That’s a whole lotta fun, I’ve also started using ethically sourced Australian gem stones and am thoroughly enjoying the colour and sparkle they’re bringing to my life.

If you could land the dream commission/exhibition/project, what would it be?

I feel like I already have it! It blows my mind that I can do what I love for a crust.

Of course, it would be amazing if I could focus solely on art works… and, if somebody paid me a steady wage to make whatever I felt like dreaming up – y’know, if there were no strings attached, and if everything I made found a forever home.

But then, I occasionally receive amazing commissions like the aforementioned hollowware commission which essentially does all that! Maybe I need to think bigger. 🤨

[Collected 19 March 2019. Updated 11 June 2020.]

Read more about Bethamy Linton and view some of her work in our Directory – use the links to connect with Bethamy and to commission a unique piece of jewellery, ware or art.

This is a standard set of questions that we ask of all our guest presenters and ‘makers of the week’. They are deliberately low-key.

Post Script from M&S

It’s amazing how in our lifetimes the tradition of the ‘family silver’ has faded. Thankfully Bethamy is able to keep the traditions alive, even if families are not purchasing large sets they are perhaps gifting pairs of serving spoons or platters, which Bethamy designs and makes by putting a contemporary twist on the traditional Linton Silver designs. We look forward to observing how her practice develops over the years and to the opening of her workshops in Maylands.

The Linton workshop was established in 1908 by Bethamy’s great grandfather James Walter Robert Linton, a British trained painter and teacher of art. He was joined in his studio by Mr Arthur Cross, a master jeweller and together they produced commissioned pieces of silverware and jewellery. His son and later his son, Bethamy’s father, also trained and followed in the family business. Linton Silver is held in several major institutional collections, as well as in the homes of royal families and many suburban homes too. It is recognisable for its ‘arts and crafts’ style incorporating Western Australian flora.

On another note and to explain..

Maker&Smith owe the pleasure of highlighting a number of metalsmiths via our platform, thanks to the work we did, producing and facilitating the Adorn program, for the City of Joondalup. It was a delight and a fulsome learning experience to meet and to engage with members of the Western Australian chapter of the Jewellers and Metalsmiths Group of Australia* and other interested makers.

* The Jewellers and Metalsmiths Group of Australia, WA (JMGA WA Inc.) is a membership based organisation which represents jewellery and object practitioners throughout Western Australia. As a volunteer non-profit organisation they provide a forum to promote, support and develop the field of contemporary jewellery.

Heirloom of the Day: Darning Mushroom.

The Craft of Carnival.

Elaborate Costumes Send a Message of Breaking Free from Slavery and Racism with Optimism and Hope.

It all began in the summer of 1958 in West London when racial tensions grew in the Afro-Caribbean community. Riots went on for three days with over 100 people getting arrested over the bank holiday weekend.

In 1959, the human rights activist, Claudia Jones who was also a Trinidadian journalist, decided to organise an indoor Caribbean carnival to bring all the communities together. That’s when the ‘concept’ of the Notting Hill Carnival came about.

Fifty-four years later, it is the second largest street festival in the world attracting up to 2 million visitors from all over the globe and contributing around £93 million to the UK’s economy, annually (but not this year, as the Carnival is cancelled in 2020).

Every year, around 15,000 costumes are handmade for the carnival parade. Taking over a million hours to create, the main message behind these elaborate costumes is breaking free from slavery and racism, while the music represents the life left behind by the Caribbean community after the emancipation of the freed African slaves from the Caribbean.

This short film The Craft of Carnival, commissioned by the Crafts Council (UK), goes behind the scenes with Mahogany Carnival to discover the craft that helps make it a success each year.

(Photo: @mahoganycarnival ; Text derived from and courtesy of thelondonnottinghillcarnival.com )

The Craft of the Carnival was featured in the 2017 edition of Reel to Real: The Craft Film Festival.

Submit your short film for the Makers’ Film Festival 2021 – and tell your community’s story. Calling now for submissions from all countries of the Indian Ocean, Australia and New Zealand.

Q&A – maker of the week: Megan Stewart

Extremely loud and incredibly motivated.

Megan Stewart describes herself as ‘extremely loud’, and she’s entitled to be, as one of a few young makers in Australia, indeed internationally, who specialises in the unique genre of custom eye ware. A metalsmith by training, Megan makes bespoke frames for your glasses, mainly hand made out of aluminium and titanium with unique ingenious hinges.

According to Megan’s research, 57% of young people wear spectacle frames compared to the 12% that wear contact lenses, and she certainly has a point, that most Australians would prefer to buy local. However, currently 90% of the frames we buy are mass produced off shore. Also, the majority of these are made of plastic with an average life-span of one year, whereas well crafted metal frames designed to your personal taste and style can last for up to 10 years.

If you wear spectacles, you want to know about Smec Eyeware, Megan Stewart’s brand. We encourage you to take up her cause and buy better – custom made frames by Australian young designer makers.

In this short, sweet Q&A, Megan shares a glimpse into her creative life – we know you’ll be able to discern the dedication to her chosen craft.

Read on…

What is your craft? How do you like to describe yourself?

My craft is designing and fabricating spectacle frames. I would describe myself as someone who’s extremely loud; appears small but, has a big personality and even bigger ideas.

Your studio – where and what is your studio/workspace like?

Since I moved back home, my studio space is in my parents’ garage. I have a jeweller’s bench with a shelf above, that my Dad made for me. Even though it’s not a typical studio space, I love that when the garage door is open I can see the sunset and hear the birds. When I’m there, I’m in my happy place.

Which of your tools do you love the most and why?

I love my tiny screwdriver. When I use it, I adore the feeling that I’m building something. All the aspects of my work come together with one simple tool.

Your inspiration – what really pumps your creative heart?

I’m really inspired by people’s reaction to my frames. Sometimes I am stopped in public for my frames – people smile when I say that they’re my own. It makes me realise that people like things that aren’t considered the ‘norm’. This drives me to keep going, to experiment, to push myself and my designs. To show that anything is possible with design as long as you keep going, it can take you anywhere and hopefully encourage others to pursue what they love.

What was the spark that made you choose this particular medium?

After completing a jewellery design diploma and a Gold & Silversmithing degree, metal became a part of my life. It’s incredible to see the contrast between the raw material and what it can transform into. To me, metal is an unusual medium to pursue, but with so many types out there with varying temperaments, it’s hard not to go down the rabbit hole and fall in love with it.

Your working style – how do you like to start on a project and then progress it? Do you stick to a working schedule 9-5 or flex around a bit? Do you play loud music? Are your pets welcome in your space?

My working schedule is quite flexible as I go from CAD modelling to the bench. For both, my concentration has to be in the right place, if a frame isn’t assembling as expected, I have to stop and take a step back. I have a small BlueTooth speaker above my shelf and play a variety of music. Now and again I listen to podcasts but I can get a bit distracted by them! My cat BamBam is always welcome in my space. If I have the door open, she’ll meow her arrival and wander around the garage and disappear for a time. It’s almost a respite when she comes over and I give her a stroke after I’ve been sanding for hours on end. That’s really therapeutic, plus she’s company if I’m on my own.

What are you working towards right now?

I’m in the development stages of the new, 9-piece range which is called the Botanica Collection, which is based on the flora and fauna I’ve grown up with – from living in England to moving to Australia. To accompany the frames, I’m also working on a new Smec Case which will be made from a combination of felt and leather. I’m hoping the collection will be released later this year! I’m also developing a new hinge mechanism that will be universal across the new range.

If you could land the dream commission/exhibition/project, what would it be?

My dream project would be to have my frames sold nationally and internationally, be a freelance accessories designer and a speaker to encourage those studying, or who are considering studying in the art and design field.

Anything you’d like to add?

During COVID-19 lock down I decided to make more use of my time and up my design skills with an online Graphic Design course. I’m just over half way through and it’s definitely getting more intense but I’m really enjoying learning new skills.

[Collected 14 March 2019. Updated 15 June 2020.]

See more of Megan Stewart’s work and her brand ‘Smec Eyeware’ in our Directory – with links to more.

This is a standard set of questions that we ask of all our guest presenters and ‘makers of the week’. They are deliberately low-key.

Q&A – maker of the week: Sandra Black

Ode to the wheel, knife and drill.

Acclaimed ceramic artist Sandra Black lives and works in Fremantle. She is recognised as a leading ceramicist internationally, and perhaps lesser known in her home state of Western Australia. With a strong exhibiting catalogue you can find Sandra Black’s works in a number of Australian and New Zealand galleries, as well as articles in eminent ceramic journals.

Sandra is an enthusiast and provides an excellent case study into the value of ‘residencies’ (something you know we bang on about quite a lot).

In this short & sweet Q&A, Sandra generously shares her journey – as she developed her craft over the years, the pivotal moments and people that led her towards an illustrious vocation and the tools she can’t live without. She even invites you to her studio!

To learn more about Sandra, click the links below and find a snapshot of her work in our Directory too.

Read on for a glimpse into Sandra’s life with clay.

What is your craft? How do you like to describe yourself?

My craft is ceramics. I have always liked to describe myself as a ceramic artist and teacher. Both making decorative and functional ceramics and passing on my skills have been very important to my practice.

Your studio – where and what is your studio/workspace like?

My studio is a converted garage at the back of my home in South Fremantle, in walking distance to South Beach. In 1988 I was able to convert it from a dark roller door garage/workshop with a corrugated iron lean-to shed into a bright working space. With a carpenter friend and a set of second hand doors and windows it was converted into two rooms. The rusted roof was replaced and insulation fitted to the ceiling. One room contains kilns, glaze materials and a wash up space and the larger room for making and display. Later in 2000, I had a kiln shed attached for my gas firings.

Which of your tools do you love the most and why?

I have three favourite tools!

My Venco potter’s wheel. It’s the third one I have owned – easy to use and great control over the speed.

My carving knife. I invented a carving knife way back in the late 1970s which was made from a piece of split pithy cane with a no.11 Swann Morton surgical blade inserted into it and held tight by waxed cotton string. I still have the original handle though the blade has been changed many times. It sits so easily in my hands and can be used to carve delicate designs and also pierce the surfaces of the vessel being worked on.

My third favourite tool is my hand-held Dremel drill with a fine dental bit, given to me by my dentist. I do all my piercing with it.

Your inspiration – what really pumps your creative heart?

I have drawn creative inspiration from many aspects of my life. Much comes from early childhood as a child growing up in rural East Gippsland in Victoria as a farmer’s daughter. The closeness to nature has always been present in my working life despite living as an urban dweller for the past 50 years. The observance of the natural world and the impacts of industry and climate changes subtly influence what I make.

I am also hugely inspired by the journeys and residencies I have undertaken in different parts of the world. Working in different cultures and countries with other artists has really been inspirational and has inspired new bodies of work. I always go to these places with no expectations, but open to what will happen in different and sometimes challenging environments.

Sandra Black in the University of Manitoba’s ceramics room when I was artist in residence there in 2008.

Sandra Black in the University of Manitoba’s ceramics room (Winnipeg) when she was artist in residence there in 2008.

What was the spark that made you choose this particular medium?

As always, there were some very special teachers who made clay exciting for me. My first was Walter Gebert – my primary school teacher who in 1960-61 brought clay into our little two-teacher primary school. As rural-based children we were taught where clay came from and so went home after our pottery lesson and dug out clay from our farm dams and made pots which we tried to fire over little campfires.

My second great inspiration was attending a summer school workshop at UWA with Joan Campbell in 1971. I had learnt some clay skills previously at Nedlands teachers’ college and WAIT (now Curtin University) with Maggie Brain and Leon Pritchard, but it was Joan’s total passion for the medium which made it so exciting with her Raku firings. From then on I was hooked.

A call from David Walker then head of Craft and Design at WAIT in 1975 was the final moment of choice when I gave up my secure high school art teaching job to take up a resident graduate position in Ceramics at WAIT along with part-time tutoring there.

Your working style – how do you like to start on a project and then progress it? Do you stick to a working schedule 9-5 or flex around a bit? Do you play loud music? Are your pets welcome in your space?

At the beginning of my career in the mid-late 1970s I would work seven days a week in the studio. It was an all-consuming passion and remained so well into my late 40s. Studio work has also been interspersed with part-time teaching at TAFEs, and at Curtin and Edith Cowan Universities. In later years I have taken up community arts teaching at Fremantle Arts Centre.

With my studio work these days I tend to map out a year or two ahead with planning one or two public studio openings, the Fremantle Arts Centre Bazaar and an exhibition either interstate or local. I also usually have planned an international residency once every 2-3 years, generally in China. I also leave space for invitational events i.e. group shows etc.

In preparing for a project/exhibition I spend time cleaning my studio, maintaining equipment, particularly my kilns and prepping the materials I will need for the work. I tend then to make in an intense burst of activity for 2-3 months for a solo show. I always have the radio on in my studio, either ABC radio national or Classic FM .I don’t need loud music but a peaceful background sound. I often have one or two of my cats visiting for the odd snack and pat. Amazingly, they are very careful around my work and have not damaged anything.

What are you working towards right now?

I am working on 10-12 pieces for a small display at Perc Tucker Regional Art Gallery in Townsville for July-September 2020. I had been asked to travel to Townsville and judge the North Queensland ceramic awards, but sadly can only now do it online, instead of the planned trip and workshop, as the state borders have been shut down due to the corona virus! Hopefully, their gallery will be open for local visitors at the time my works arrive.

If you could land the dream commission/exhibition/project, what would it be?

I would love to be invited to do a residency somewhere overseas again, to work in a university or cultural centre in Canada, China, Netherlands, Japan, France or UK. It would be great to also exhibit in these venues as I have done in the past. I learn so much from these experiences and find new directions for my work.

Anything you’d like to add?

I don’t manage the selling of my work via online platforms, I generally leave this to the galleries that I sell through. I am a very visual and tactile person, so when people are buying or selling ceramics, my wish both for myself and customers, where possible, is to physically access the work to experience the quality before purchasing.

I am happy for people to come to my studio to choose pieces. I also offer students short workshops in my workspace and one-on-one consultations to help out with any issues they may have with their own work.

[Collected 25 May 2019.]

View more about Sandra Black and her ceramic art in our Directory – with links to more.

This is a standard set of questions that we ask of all our guest presenters and ‘makers of the week’. They are deliberately low-key.

Q&A – maker of the week: Neil Turner

Turner by name, turner by nature.

Neil Turner Artisan

An ‘atronym’ is the word for when a person’s name ‘is regarded as amusingly appropriate to their occupation’. Neil Turner introduced us to this term. He could have been called ‘farmer’, based on his previous work, however his destiny, it seems, was to become a wood turner.

Neil Turner was a farmer all his life, but from the age of 18, he pursued woodturning as a creative outlet, working in his shed at the end of every day. Upon retiring, he has been able to dedicate his time entirely to creating highly complex turned pieces from native Australian wood.

Neil is a man of few words, but here in this short & sweet Q&A he hints to the meditative enjoyment of working steadily in his workshop, and the joy he finds in timber and nature. To learn more about his craft, click the links below to watch the short story film ‘Neil Turner Artisan’ and find Neil in our Directory too.

Read on for a glimpse into Neil Turner’s woodturning life.

What is your craft? How do you like to describe yourself?

Artistic wood sculptor; woodturner; fine furniture maker.

Your studio – where and what is your studio/workspace like?

My workshop space, in the south-west of Western Australia, is broken into areas for furniture making, carving and woodturning. I don’t have a showroom to display finished products.

Which of your tools do you love the most and why?

The spokeshave – I enjoy using this tool as I feel it’s an extension of my hands.

Your inspiration – what really pumps your creative heart?

Beautiful pieces of timber & nature’s simplicity of design.

What was the spark that made you choose this particular medium?

I’ve always enjoyed timber, not sure why; it just resonates for me. Timber allows me to use creative designs but with limitations.

Your working style – how do you like to start on a project and then progress it? Do you stick to a working schedule 9-5 or flex around a bit? Do you play loud music? Are your pets welcome in your space?

I may have two or three pieces on the go at one time, moving from one to the other. I have ear phones with music on but occasionally I do enjoy the quiet time. Besides the occasional kangaroo that pokes it’s head into my workshop we don’t have pets anymore.

What are you working towards right now?

I’m catching up on work that has been neglected for ‘Turner + Turner’. I’m always trying to catch up; making many pieces at once is rare. Because there are no markets at the moment, only online, hopefully I can “get ahead”.

For ‘Neil Turner Artisan’ I’ve been creating pieces for collectors in the USA with a few more sculptures still to make. I’m designing a lectern and presentation table to make before the end of the year. Also designing pieces for the Craft Triennial exhibition in 2021.

 If you could land the dream commission/exhibition/project, what would it be?

To make a piece for Parliament House Canberra.

[Collected 22 May 2019.]

View a snapshot of work by ‘Neil Turner Artisan’ and Turner+Turner’ in our Directory – with links to websites, shop  and outlets.

Watch short film ‘Neil Turner Artisan’. Film-maker Rae Fallon; Music by Joel Ritchie. (Vimeo 02:50)

Watch a carving and texturing demonstration by Neil Turner for the Rocky Mountain Woodturners  (Recorded 4 June 2015. YouTube 1:37:46).

This is a standard set of questions that we ask of all our guest presenters and ‘makers of the week’. They are deliberately low-key.

Post script anecdote…

We first met Neil through a referral to photographer and film-maker Rae Fallon when we were scouting for local films about makers for ‘Real to Reel: The Craft Film Festival‘. Rae submitted the short film she had just completed with Neil and we were delighted that it was accepted for the 2019 edition of the Festival (which, by the way, is still touring Australia – its dates extended due to the pandemic.) This film from WA was one of three films from Australia to make the cut alongside two animations by Tjanpi Desert Weavers, and 30 other international films.

Anyway, when we premiered ‘Real to Reel 2019’ at The Backlot in Perth last year, we were delighted that Neil and his wife Suellen were able to join us (they live in a coastal town, about 175km south of Perth). Neil had a busy schedule in Perth that weekend as he is always in demand to give talks and demonstrations at the WA Wood Show; he even crammed in a radio interview with Bec Bowman on ArtBeat at RTRfm. Rae was also amazingly able to make it too, with husband Shane, having just welcomed baby Tully a couple of weeks before.

Q&A – maker of the week: Claire Townsend

Jeweller, Metalsmith and Educator

Claire Townsend March 2019We first met Claire Townsend when we started up Maker&Smith and were looking to plan some craft specific talks and discussions. In March 2019 we hosted a one-day forum, ADORN, about contemporary jewellery and metalsmiths in partnership with the City of Joondalup, to complement an exhibition of work by the JMGA-WA (Jewellers & Metalsmiths’ Group of Western Australia) and the City’s Urban Couture festival.

After an illuminating talk from Katherine Kalaf about her journey promoting contemporary jewellery in Australia, Claire introduced the gathered throng to her work, alongside five other ‘smiths’, and later ran an enamelling workshop for keen amateurs.

We are pleased that our work on the ADORN programme grew our acquaintances in the local jewellery & metalsmithing network and our knowledge of their unique talents. It has also informed us of the challenges they face as skilled makers in Western Australia (WA).

Claire highlights in this short & sweet Q&A her love of rings and her desire to see craft and design nurtured in Western Australia.

Read on for a glimpse into Claire’s smithing life.

What is your craft? How do you like to describe yourself?

I mainly make jewellery and like to use traditional techniques to make wearable art.

Your studio – where and what is your studio/workspace like?

I live and work from my studio in Lesmurdie, in the Perth Hills. I love it!

Which of your tools do you love the most and why?

I have a beautiful old hammer that came from my grandfather’s shed. He used to make wooden toys, so I never knew why he had a metalsmith’s repousse hammer, but I love that he used to hold that same handle.

Your inspiration – what really pumps your creative heart?

I am most interested in the marks we leave on each other through our exchanges. Friends, strangers, lovers, family, we all affect each other, so I guess I’m interested in humans, and how we interact.

What was the spark that made you choose this particular medium?

I made my first ring in high school and I gave it to a friend. The joy I had in seeing him wear it with pride has given me an ongoing desire to make things for others to wear.

Your working style – how do you like to start on a project and then progress it? Do you stick to a working schedule 9-5 or flex around a bit? Do you play loud music? Are your pets welcome in your space?

I am really flexible, because I work around my family of four. I am in the studio whenever I can be, my dog keeps me constant company, and I mostly listen to podcasts. Huge fan of true crime, and I love getting immersed in the story while I’m immersed in my work.

What are you working towards right now?

I want to make a new selection of rings to sell at some galleries over east*, and am exploring more enamelling in my pieces.

If you could land the dream commission/exhibition/project, what would it be?

I would love to put together an education program for contemporary jewellers in Perth. A program that produced and fostered the future of craft in WA amongst this ever changing fiscal and technological driven landscape. I’d also get to make rings at the same time!

*this is the term that people in WA use to refer to the eastern states of Australia.

[Collected 3 November 2019.]

Learn more about Claire Townsend and view a sample of her work in our Directory – with links to her Instagram feed, website and online store.

*Since we had this chat with Claire, we’ve had many discussions with her about the need for a craft specific centre of excellence in Perth and Western Australia. We continue to have conversations along these lines with many local craftspeople of differing specialisms. If you’d like to join one of our chat sessions and/or can contribute any intel, please contact us.

This is a standard set of questions that we ask of all our guest presenters and ‘makers of the week’. They are deliberately low-key.