Grace Brown's Distinctly Australian Ceramics Are Relaxed, Playful and a Little Bit Odd
Ceramicist Grace Brown from Oh Hey Grace. All images courtesy of the artist
Promoting her kiln-fired creations through Instagram account Oh Hey Grace, Melbourne's Grace Brown has made a name for herself as a part of Australia's thriving contemporary ceramics scene. Life is incredibly busy for the former fashion designer, who earlier this year was commissioned to create an exclusive range of clay forms for the National Gallery of Victoria’s store. Alongside the likes of Jessilla Rogers, she’s injecting youthful energy into a sometimes-stodgy artistic discipline. Her bold aesthetic utilises vibrantly coloured gloss glazes to create bright, extravagantly patterned surfaces.
Speaking to The Creator's Project, the friendly creative explains how Oh Hey Grace evolved almost accidentally from a part time hobby. “I started it as a weird thing I do on weekends, but people have been amazingly supportive and everything happened very naturally,” she says.
Brown uses a combination of handbuilding and wheel thrown pieces in her practice. “When I’m hand building I love to use porcelain as it's so delicate and fires so beautifully,” she says. “I also love to use white Raku and contrasting that with warm stone coloured clays.”
Much of her work is influenced by architectural elements from the Bauhaus and Memphis design movements, illustrations by Ettore Sottsass and architects like Luis Barragan and Ricardo Bofill. “Forms with sharp lines, bold colours and lots of negative space.”
Her background in fashion comes into it too. “I find I’m influenced a lot by wild patterns and print in fabrics or textiles,” she says. “It changes so often, and not long ago I was completely obsessed with making fried chicken ceramic decanters and surfaces to plate up jelly and cake sculptures.”
What's striking about the ceramics coming out of Melbourne right now is their geographically-centred idiosyncrasies, and Brown's work in particular is representative of this. “I think what makes Australian ceramics so interesting is the huge amount of influences in people's work,” Brown says. “Rather than keeping to one particular style I see a lot of people merging styles and techniques to create some really interesting pieces with patterns referencing Australiana imagery or colours. There are some incredibly exciting ceramics coming out of Australia right now."
Some of that Australiana “comes from muted washed our sandy tones...think The Triffids’Wide Open Road.” You’ll also see “glimpses of Ken Done” in the bursts of colour and spiralling surface designs.
“I also feel Australian ceramics are relaxed and made to be used and enjoyed with a playful attitude,” Brown explains. “Maybe embracing a chip here or there, rather than being locked up behind glass doors.”