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Thursday 1 October 2020

Steph Woods, aka Invention Collection is a ceramic artist and designer based in Brisbane. Celebrating the handcrafted and the unusual, Steph's ceramic practice pays homage to childhood memories of her mother's treasured cake tins, porcelain cups and quirky teapots. We caught up with Steph to learn about her first experiments with ceramics which evolved into her practice, Invention Collection. 

How would you describe Invention Collection?

Invention Collection is a celebration of the handmade and unusual. It’s the way I express my love for play in art, while also honouring the functionality of ceramics and their role in our day-to-day. As the name suggests, Invention Collection is a collection of my artistic inventions.

When did you feel the first urge to pursue ceramics? How did that make you feel?

I discovered my passion for ceramics while in my second year of university during ‘studio art practices’ class. The deadline for my final assessment was fast approaching and I found myself feeling astray. I decided to take a risk and create a large ceramic vessel for my assessment – something I have never tried before. To my surprise, it came out of the kiln unscathed, and boy, was I nervous it would explode! As I was relying on this piece so heavily to be a success, I put all my energy into perfecting every little detail, filling the vessel with different colours and forms. Even today when I view my first complete piece, I still believe it to be my finest work. From that moment on, my love for creating ceramics flourished and meant much more to me than a university assignment. Once you get the itch for creating ceramics you will never let it go.

How does living in the Brisbane region influence your creative practice?

My creative practice is greatly influenced by my Brisbane surrounds. Many of the colours and forms in my pieces are inspired by my local natural environment. In Brisbane, we are lucky to be home to an array of plants and animals with such exquisite, colourful and unusual features. I visit the Mt Coot-tha Botanical Gardens regularly to take photos of the flora and fauna to observe the humble organic shapes and forms that nature provides.

Your pieces exude a sense of otherworldliness, what inspires you to create?

The sheer joy of making inspires me to create my pieces. It’s an exciting exercise for me that favours spontaneity. Ceramics can be produced so organically, in a mesmerising and mediative state. I balance this practice of spontaneity with functionality, creating pieces with the desire for personal connection and sentimentality. I want people to be touched by the love that I have for making whilst also finding their own understanding of my work.

How has your style evolved over time, and what has influenced its development?

My art practice has become more sophisticated and implicit overtime. By developing my skills, I have refined my hand-building techniques, making the elements of my piece more intentional and defined. In my most recent works, I extracted reoccurring colours and forms from past designs and thoughtfully emulated them in a repetitive manner. I create subset of works that celebrate one individual hand-building technique. When developing my coil pots, which are currently displayed at MoB Shop, my aim was to proudly display the coil building technique on the outside of the vase, honouring the artist’s methods in its rawest form.

What does a day in the life of Steph look like? Tell us about your creative process.

Like many artists, I appreciate a work-life balance. I only create pieces when I am happy and excited to do so. This means the production of my work is quite slow, yet the finished products are successful and full of character. I enjoy sketching on my tablet and regularly plan out the glazing of my pieces by taking photos of the bisque fired works and sketching over the top of them. I try not to plan my pieces too thoroughly, but I believe this method helps.

Do you have any exciting projects coming up for Invention Collection?

I have been doing some reflective thinking about what has worked best in my previous pieces. One which has always been a favourite to viewers, are my Pox Pots. I have been creating these pots since I first became a ceramicist. They are small pots that fit inside the palm of your hand and are delicately glazed light pink with small red dots, which are painted individually with a brush. Each Pox Pot is different, and I think that their quirky characteristics is the reason they are so special. I have started to create variants of the Pox Pots with different sizes and colours. These will become available to purchase late November at MoB Shop and on my online shop.