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27 October 2020

Shannon Garson uses domestic pots as vessels for drawings about the strange beauty and wonder to be found in ecosystems, which are revealed over the surface of her delicately thrown porcelain vessels.

We chatted to Shannon to learn about her first introduction to porcelain over 20 years ago, and how it came to be her medium of choice as an artist whose career started as a painter.

You have a long history working with porcelain, how did this first come about?

I began my career as a painter doing a visual arts degree. After I graduated, I started decorating for a Brisbane ceramics studio Amfora run by Clairy Laurence and Monica Usher. I couldn’t throw pots then, but I soon learnt. From the first moment I got on the pottery wheel I was obsessed; I remember lying in bed at night with that wheel turning around and around in my head! Initially, my specific interest was drawing and painting, which is reflected in the ceramics I make today.

How did you end up working with porcelain as your primary medium and how is it significant for you as an artist?

From the minute I started making pots I wanted to make fine, white vessels. Porcelain is a beautiful, seductive material, the colours are bright, it has a tactile quality like silk that makes you want to be near it. I love using porcelain, not just because of the way it interreacts with drawings but also because of its rich and strange history. When porcelain pots were discovered in China by European explorers the only ceramics that Europeans had ever seen were brown or red, porcelain was so desirable that it became known as “white gold” and the kings of Europe were involved in a technological race to be the first to be able to reproduce this amazing substance. This race to discover the secret of porcelain led to kings kidnapping and imprisoning alchemists and, ultimately, to the development of bone china.

How would you describe the style of your work?

My work is based on functional forms, I throw thinly and with an eye to clean, classic design inspired by Japan and Scandinavia. I want the whole pot to be experienced, from the weight of it as you pick it up, the texture, the drawing, colour, smoothness of the glaze, all the elements, draw the viewer into experiencing the vessel. Everyone who owns one of these pots has an experience that no-one else can share as the owners get to pick up the vessels and hold them and interact with them intimately.

Your work is intricately detailed and often features details of the natural world, what inspires you to create?

I’m inspired by the world around me, the hidden details of the soil, leaves, bird’s nests, and rockpools.

Tell us about your creative process? Which part do you enjoy the most?

Making pots in the studio starts from the experience of the landscape. I walk through the areas that I’m interested in, I take photos and really observe. From the moment I open a bag of clay and start weighing it into balls to throw on the wheel I am thinking of a particular aspect of the landscape. The drawings are organic, they grow from splashes and shadows and I make marks and add details moving the vessels around, considering the entire object. I love all parts of making pots.

Do you have any exciting projects coming up?

I am working on a big project for a public artwork on the Sunshine Coast. This project is all about drawing and one of the main components of it is a 16-metre-long drawing inspired by the paperbarks and silvery mullet of the Maroochy River embedded in glass! It’s been really inspiring to work with drawing on this scale. I’ve also got a solo exhibition coming up at the Noosa Regional Gallery next January. It is a multimedia exhibition that will includes glass drawings, drawings on paper, and of course porcelain vessels! 

Photos courtesy Shannon Garson. Photo 1: Hannah Puechmarin. Photo 2: Greg Piper.