• Harlinah Teoh

Botanical ceramics

When I started making ceramics, I had no preconceptions about what I wanted to make. It was all just play: getting my hands into the clay and disconnecting from the left side of my brain.


Over the years, I’d pinned quite a few ceramics pictures in Pinterest. There was no clear intention – I just pinned images I liked as I came across them. It took me a while to register that I was amassing so many ceramics pins. Once I started making ceramics myself, I returned to Pinterest and researched what I’d pinned, learning about the pottery traditions, makers and techniques that intuitively appealed to me.


I put names to pictures and discovered that many of the artists I’d pinned the most — Toshiko Takaezu, Avital Sheffer, Alev Ebüzziya Siesbye, Erna Aaltonen, Acoma pueblo potters — were a) women and b) handbuilders rather than wheelthrowers. I admired the elegance and simplicity of Song Dynasty celadon, Japanese tea bowls and Korean moon jars, and the quiet structure of Gertrud Vasegaard’s work, which remind me of paintings by Agnes Martin.

When it came to my own ceramics though, I found myself drawing plants. I’ve always enjoyed the visual presence of plants. As a kid I planted veggie gardens and pressed flowers. I collected fern fronds and turned them into botanical reference cards for a school science project, aware even at the time that I was more interested in the art that the science. My garden was my major creative outlet when my children were small. I photograph wildflowers, street plantings, neighbourhood gardens and botanical gardens on my travels, and draw sketches and doodles of real and fantastical flora.



So it’s probably not surprising that botanical designs are finding their way onto my pots.




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©2020 Harlinah Teoh