We are delighted to introduce a new ceramicist to the Koskela collection, Szilvassy. The artist, Shari Lowndes, is inspired by the humbling notion that the same ‘star stuff’ that forms a blanket of light in the night sky can also be carefully thrown on a potter’s wheel to form art. It is through this sense of reverence that Shari Lowndes wishes to imprint a sense of intimacy, and connection upon objects that are traditionally overlooked.
Read our Q&A with Shari to delve into her journey as a ceramicist.
How long did the skill take to develop?
Five years ago, I commenced one of the Art programs at SOCA (School of Clay and Art) a private school started by Shane Kent (founder) and taught alongside Kate Jones: two established and practicing ceramic artists. l was fortunate to be granted a scholarship which allowed me to study full time, it was here that my love for ceramics came to surface. I was particularly inspired by their unique style of teaching which resonated with my kinaesthetic way of learning by doing.
I became familiar with the properties of clay and its material boundaries for the first two years before commencing on the wheel. The act of throwing clay is a practice which requires a great deal of time, I realised early on that it would require a lot of dedication and devotion to be truly skilled.
When did you establish Szilvassy and how would you describe the brand?
I try to avoid a ‘house style’, as my process often explores materiality and context which develops into a formal expression. All my lines and studies are interlinked with subjects connected with nature.
The first line I titled was named after Aether. I find the subject of Aether fascinating as it explores the unseen powers of the world which create a web of interconnection between all things. This draws from Carl Sagan’s poem (an American Astro-scientist & Philosopher)– ‘the universe is all that is, or ever was or ever will be…we are made of star stuff’. It so poetically and succinctly defines how we should see our relationship with the universe. The contextual properties of clay, my memory of volcanic soil, the memory of wattle, embedded principals avoiding decorative temptations are part of the Aether line.
There is one side of my work which is quite simple really - the functional addresses basic needs - with a direct comment on a clear need: we must value everyday objects, where they come from and how we value them. Simple things, such as a plate, a mug or a bowl address common objects, but equally address intimate connections.
Alongside the functional wares, I am also developing sculptural and artistic focused works. The works currently in development are greater experimentations into form. The process involves an exploration into ancient techniques and traditions. Both this artistic exploration, as well as production of home and tableware’s are underpinned by my core values which hero the environment, nature and looking universally for inspiration. Having a dichotomy of forms and expressions are complementary to my varying creative facets. While one demands precision and refinement, the other is freer and more physical, much more organic. I am a Gemini after all.
What inspires your work?
My formative years centered around nature where we were surrounded by fertile sub-tropical rainforest which has deeply influenced my artistic expression. In more recent years, I have found a deepening appreciation for my family’s heritage which spans many cultural lines. It is their stories and customs which I am beginning to explore within my investigative works.
For the past couple of years my growing interests are in the origins of clay, the heritage of site and cultural properties. I have been working with a particular location in Victoria that was previously mined, where the clay is high in red and yellow iron oxides and silica particles. The main body of my practice involves clay and will likely continue to be the integral foundation, although I am contemplating other material explorations. Those materials most likely in some way will interact or derive from the material, but be looking to other means of form, including sculpture and furniture objects, which I have always had an affliction towards. I am exploring the idea of site specificity and the interactions within a concentrated surrounding.
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
Through my work as a ceramicist and creative in general, I have felt a shift in culture which values more than ever, the authenticity of objects and the processes involved. Makers are more accountable to what they are producing and placing into the world, in which integrity has become paramount.
I feel that this is the most rewarding part because it means collectively, we are becoming a less disposable culture. The endeavour to create with integrity holds me to a certain standard and I enjoy that personal challenge.
There is a sense of permanency with ceramics, much like an heirloom, where a sense of ‘home’ is created by the pieces you collect and garner from different places over time. It is the appeal in familiar objects that introduce or spark an emotive connection; and in time capture memories.
And what is the hardest part?
I would guess that most people understand that pursuing a self-sustained artistic practice is not an easy path. The challenges I found from the early stages of establishing my studio are largely from the continual re-investment required. This came with no surprise, as a handful of established Artists informed me of the various financial hurdles and sacrifices which lay in front of me.