I have been gearing up for this year’s Clay Gulgong 2018 (like the NCECA of Australia…) and Iv’e been looking at a bunch of Australian ceramic artists in preparation for my trek this spring. I came across a fun project by Adrian ‘Charlie’ Smith and Heather ‘Blair’ Lockhart of Charlie and Blair Ceramics.
The Brisbane, Australia-based duo creates whimsical design ceramics in their signature blue on white painted style. Their pottery falls into the current trend of folksy design potters focusing on brand and business and finding success through marketing and social media rather than degrees and exhibitions. This breed of potter stays removed from the drama of craft world and art world politics – a smart move. The model is not new, of course, but there has been a notable uprising in the last 5 years with a distinctive aesthetic – a child of Pinterest culture. The phenomenon has introduced a ton of new players to the ceramic game who play by their own rules are successfully growing design businesses all over the world.
Charlie and Blair are rocking this model and their brand is outstanding. Their work has been covered by Design Collector, Yen Magazine, Beautiful/Decay, the Contemporist, Design You Trust, Beautiful Lands, and more.
Charlie and Blair’s pottery is impressive for its balance of an un-skilled look to the clay craft paired with a naive painting style employing rudimentary techniques and patterns. It is incredibly difficult to make work that appears this “poorly made” so consistently. Looking at their history and building an understanding of the their visual language exposes the immense skill they posses to achieve this aesthetic. These are not accidents – they are beautifully designed, intentionally crafted, and perfectly marketed. In addition to pottery, they create hilarious paintings of pots that achieve the same type of refined irreverence.
“We specialise in ceramic pieces that simply bring beauty to a space.”
Charlie and Blair’s project Untitled deviates from their everyday work and is an impressive wall installation made up of 2124 hand thrown porcelain vessels. When combined, the little cups make up a giant self portrait of Charlie. The pots themselves feel fast and raw allowing you to feel the speed and viscosity of the clay with a painting style to match.
“As they came off the wheel I didn’t try and alter/perfect the shape of the vessel. Instead, I wanted to keep each vessel in their current state in order to capture a moment in time.”
This piece is remarkable for it’s duel experience of existing as both an individual cup with a seemingly abstract decoration, when up-close, and also as a singular painting when observing the collection from afar.