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Interview - Bridget Bodenham

Creative People

18th November, 2011
Lucy Feagins
Friday 18th November 2011

Ceramic vessels by Bridget Bodenham

Ceramic and stoneware vessels waiting to be fired at Bridget's studio.  Photo - Lucy Feagins.

I had the great pleasure last weekend of making a little trip out to Daylesford to meet ceramicist Bridget Bodenham.  I feel like Ms Bodenham is a little bit famous - it was very exciting to meet her!  This is a girl whose beautiful work I've admired for a long time.  It was so lovely to put a face to that familiar name... and to see Bridget's incredible studio set-up, amongst 12 shipping containers on her mother's rambling property in Hepburn Springs.

Although she's just 26 years old, Bridget's work has a strong following - there is something quietly striking about her  range of handcrafted ceramic and stoneware vessels.  Much like Bridget herself, the work has an aura of calm, thoughtful reflection about it.  I especially love her organic, Flintstones-esque  pestle and mortars, and the elegant, understated shapes and texture of her stoneware pots.

Bridget divides her time between making in the studio and teaching at Ballarat University and Ballarat fine art gallery.  She enjoys breaking up her working week in this way, but she's very disciplined and is careful to maintain a prolific studio output.  Her work is stocked at many Melbourne outlets including Mr Kitly in Brunswick, Pieces of Eight in the city and Craft Victoria.

Bridget has a lot going on before this year is out!  You can visit Bridget's sweet Daylesford studio at her annual open studio event on Sat 3rd December 11.00am - 4.00pm (90 Ajax rd, Hepburn Springs), where there will be plenty of work for sale too.  ALSO you can meet Bridget and pick up some of her pieces at the annual Pottery Market at Federation Square, Sunday 4th December 10.00am - 4.00pm. AND you guessed it, that SAME weekend Ms Bodenham's beautiful work will also feature at The Design Files Open House!  Jeepers. That's one busy weekend.  If you make all three events in one weekend you should totally win some kind of handcrafted ceramic prize. :)

Massive thanks to Bridget for this interview and for hosting me so generously during my visit!  Thanks also to Armelle Habib and Clair Wayman for sharing  a few of their photographs of Bridget's studio space, shot earlier this year for Home Beautiful magazine.

Tell me a little about your background – what path led you to working as a ceramicist and making the work you’re making now?

I grew up on the Sunshine Coast close to the beach, and was always encouraged to use my hands.  I first used clay at secondary school and have been hooked ever since.

Some of the forms I make have a natural feel, taking influence from the surrounding rocky bush of the central highlands.

The hidden details incorporated reference the ocean and its forms. Beachcombing, picking up shells and other fragments, and turning them over in my hands helps me to focus on detail of textures and marks which I reference in my work.

The majority of my work is designed to be used and enjoyed. Recently I have been working on smaller scale forms designed to be worn, like neck pieces or brooches.

Can you give us a little insight into your creative process - do you design or sketch on paper before creating new work? Do you have a clear idea of what your work will look like before you start? Do you make multiple pieces of a similar design or is every piece entirely unique?

Sketching and drawing is a major part of my practice. The fluid manner of drawing relates to the way I use clay, developing shapes and forms, playing around with the ideas, before I commit to an actual product.

Clay is a very surprising material, often what comes out of the kiln is not what you expect which can be frustrating but interesting and can lead to future developments.  Laminating and layering coloured porcelain and including other materials like silver are areas I’ve been working on lately.

I'm interested in collections and ranges both in domestic ware and jewellery, but I want each piece to stand alone.

Ceramic and stoneware pestle and mortars by Bridget Bodenham

You’re based in Hepburn Springs – what is it that you enjoy about living and working in this area?

I enjoy being surrounded by nature and its changing energy, this inspires my work and nourishes my being. The ever changing seasons provide constant wonder and amazement!

Daylesford is a diverse community and it is easy to be part of the town one minute and in my own sanctuary in another. It's possible to be hidden away in the quiet of my bush studio but never too far from an excellent cup of coffee!  It's also very easy to get to Melbourne when I have to for a concert or exhibition.

What does a typical day in the studio involve for you?

I try to start at 10.00am, turn on classical fm to the morning interview, tidy up benches and clean my tools. This gives me time to reflect. I light my wood heater and begin to prepare the clay. This can take the morning. Then I get making, and probably finish around late afternoon. Time to think about dinner! I check the vegetable garden and might choose some ingredients to include in the mix. Most business contact is done through email at the end of the working day.

I try to put aside three solid days a week to produce work for orders. Lately, I have been teaching and working with young kids at the Ballarat fine art gallery. It's been really stimulating to work in a different environment and with other people of all ages, when I am mainly isolated in my home studio. I have to be very disciplined, but there are always distractions!

Working with clay is a slow and technical process, always surprising a bit of a challenge but I never stop thinking about what I want to do next.

Tiny vessels on display in Bridget's studio. Photo - Lucy Feagins

Can you list for us your top 5 creative resources across any media?

1. Indian 1000 recipes cookbook
2. Black Robe White Mist, Buddhist nun Rengetsu book
3. The World of Interiors magazine
5. NGV gallery

Which other designers / creative people do you admire?

I am surrounded daily by creative people who constantly surprise me with their energy and enthusiasm.  I admire traditional craft values and I'm influenced by the japanese approach to materials - ie the way design fits into a life in an unconscious way, the way you make choices as an individual as oppose to following fashions.

I'm attracted to objects that have meaning and substance and that are satisfying to use and enjoy.

Vessels and beautiful local flowers on display in Bridget's studio

What would be your dream creative project?

A dream of mine is to build my own house of earth and stone, to collaborate with a chef to create a unique dining experience and to make large light sculptures.

What are you looking forward to?

In less than a month I'm travelling to the Himalayas and India. When I return I hope to be renewed and full of insights about how the wider world lives.

Studio details - top left, ceramic chain neckace (photo - Lucy Feagins), top right, studio details (photo by Armelle Habib, styled by Clair Wayman, originally shot forHome Beautiful magazine).  Bottom photo by Lucy Feagins.

Local Knowledge!

Where do you shop in Melbourne / Victoria for the tools and materials of your trade?

My tools and clay supplies come from Clayworks in Dandenong.

What/where was the last great meal you ate in either Melbourne or Daylesford /Hepburn?

A picnic I shared with my cousin at Mount Franklin (old volcanic cone). We bought lovely bread and salads and Holy goat ash feta from the best produce store in the area, Tonnas fruit and veg. Simple and fresh!

Where would we find you on a typical Sunday morning?

Early morning is spent at the local market stocking up on supplies for the week, reading the paper often in my garden, and taking a short drive in the afternoon to visit a friend or appreciate the landscape. A day to relax.

Daylesford / Hepburn’s best kept secret?

Its not a secret but The Daylesford botanical gardens is the best place to visit anytime time of the day or night. Full of secretive spots and breathtaking vistas.

Awww. Bridget's studio buddy.

The Design Files acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of the lands on which we work, the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation. We pay our respects to Elders past and present.

First Nations artists, designers, makers, and creative business owners are encouraged to submit their projects for coverage on The Design Files. Please email