BLUE HOUSE PORCELAIN Q&A
13 October 2020
Based in a 50s blue house with a terracotta roof in the leafy Brisbane suburb of Bardon, Blue House Porcelain founder Simon Suckling, takes inspiration from his surrounding environment. Specialising in decorative tableware made entirely by hand, each piece is thoughtfully designed to be both functional and beautiful.
We caught up with Simon to learn about his background in ceramics, and how it came to be his medium of choice as an artist.
You have a long history in ceramics, how did this first come about?
I am a second-generation potter; clay was always in our house growing up and I was encouraged to give it a go. I went on to study art at the University of Southern Queensland where I majored in ceramics. After university I moved to Melbourne and started a job in production pottery, this was my first introduction to working with porcelain. 30 years later, I am still drawn to the craft!
How did you end up working with ceramics as your primary medium and how is it significant for you as an artist?
I was lucky to have a broad-based art education across a number of studio disciplines, but I always knew I wanted to work with clay. It’s significant to me because it satisfies my need to paint and to draw as well as create three dimensional objects. It’s endlessly complex and variable, as soon as you solve one problem there are a hundred others waiting. It’s a lot of fun!
How would you define the style of your work and how did it develop?
I work in a decorative modernist style. Porcelain has its own specific language, which is essentially about the whiteness of the clay and its ability to be extremely fine while still maintaining its strength. It’s the perfect blank canvas to carry imagery.
My current body of work references the natural environment around my Bardon home and pulls together the different threads of my art practice from over the years: drawing, painting, digital design, printmaking and ceramics.
I used to paint highly detailed images directly onto clay using underglazes, but I found I was losing some resolution in the process. My drawings had a graphic quality that I wanted to replicate on clay surfaces so I began to research printmaking with ceramic pigments.
Last year I made the leap to printing multi-layered silkscreen imagery to make on-glaze ceramic decals. It’s a transfer printing technique whereby you soak the image in water and slide it onto the glazed work. A third firing fuses the image to the clay. It’s a big investment in time and resources to learn the process, but as a result I am now making the work I’ve always wanted to.
You started Blue House Porcelain living in the Brisbane suburb of Bardon, did this influence your practice?
Very much so! I am lucky to have a beautiful home studio under my house surrounded by the natural world. My drawings reflect the plants and animals I find in my immediate neighbourhood. It’s important to me to make work that pays homage to the region I live in.
Your pieces often draw on your natural surroundings, what inspires you to create?
Colour is very important to what I do, it creates an emotional response from the viewer. Nature teaches us about colour, harmony and composition. The great thing about working from the natural environment is I don’t need to travel for inspiration; everything I need is within walking distance.
Working with porcelain is very technical and it’s easy to get caught up in everyday worries about process. Drawing from nature is lovely counterpoint to those concerns - flowers and birds don’t care about firing schedules!
Which part of the process of making ceramics do you enjoy the most?
There are parts of the production process that are repetitive and mindful, like throwing and turning. I enjoy the repetition of throwing the same form over and over, looking for incremental improvements in each batch. There are also parts that are rigorous and complex, such as design and composition. I enjoy the variation that comes with all of these tasks!
Do you have any exciting projects coming up for Blue House Porcelain? Or dream projects you are yet to realise?
I am looking forward to Blue House Porcelain collaborating with other Brisbane artists from different disciplines to make limited edition works in porcelain. It’s an exciting opportunity to exchange ideas, expand the practice and bring new stories and images to the work. Watch this space!