A loooong time ago we interviewed respected Melbourne designer and ceramicist Gregory Bonasera. Gregory is a celebrated local craftsman, who completed his BA in Ceramic Design at Monash University back in 1988, followed by an Australia Council funded residency with Besozzo studio in Northern Italy. He has been an independent designer & maker ever since, working in both metalwork and ceramics. In the past decade, however, Gregory’s practice has significantly developed, after he went back to study Computer Aided Design (CAD). Acquiring new skills in technology based design and production has presented countless new opportunities for Gregory’s practice, and has meant a significant turning point for his business.
But that hasn’t been the only turning point! Gregory met Anthony Raymond in 2009. With a background in industrial design, graphic design, and visual merchandising, Anthony’s interests were closely aligned with Gregory’s, and the pair quickly became close friends and creative collaborators, before later becoming partners in both life and business.
‘In 2011, Anthony joined me for one day per week to help produce a complex heritage restoration job, re-creating over 400 decorative antique tiles for Scots’ Church in Collins St Melbourne’ explains Gregory. ‘We discovered that we worked well together; we’re both very hands-on, methodical thinkers and workers. Anthony picked up the techniques and methods very quickly, and it wasn’t long before he worked three, then five days per week with me’ explains Gregory.
Previously, the label ‘Porcelain Bear’ had been a sub-brand for Gregory, who had generally worked under his own name for bespoke projects, whilst Porcelain Bear was used as a more commercial identity. ‘Once it was decided that Anthony was to become a permanent addition to the business, PB just naturally transitioned to become the identity for the whole business’ explains Gregory. ‘It’s a name that people connect well with, and we’re both bears, clearly…!’
‘The polar bear is our mascot’ says Gregory. ‘He’s white and represents strength, dignity, beauty, stability, determination but also fragility – he’s the perfect porcelain analogy.’
Having forged a prolific creative partnership, together, Anthony and Gregory design and produce a impressive range of porcelain lighting, functional wares and furniture (including the most amazing porcelain DINING TABLE – pictured above) from their studio and showroom in Collingwood. Anthony works mostly in the production side of the business, whilst Gregory focuses on the glazing, firing & finishing. The pair also design and produce porcelain components and product for various other local designers, such as their exclusive range for boutique Australian furniture manufacturer Jardan.
Beyond simply designing beautiful things, Gregory and Anthony are passionate about pushing their medium, and people’s perception of it, into new territory. ‘It’s important for us to take our craft to new places, both technically & aesthetically. We produce a lot of lighting but we also do fully functional porcelain stools and a dining table.. yes, it’s functional..!’ insists Gregory. ‘We all walk on porcelain and stoneware tiles, we drop things on them constantly and they take it all without damage. We use porcelain vanities and toilet bowls every day without a second thought, rarely causing damage. A porcelain stool or dining table will last indefinitely indoors or outdoors – the material is UV proof and surprisingly robust’.
Gregory and Anthony opened their beautiful showroom in Collingwood in earlier this year, but to accommodate their growing collection of larger porcelain designs, they have a ‘Stage 2’ opening planned for early 2015 – their showroom will almost double in size, and will accommodate various new designs launching very soon. We’ll keep you posted!
23-25 Derby St
Showroom open 10.00am to 4.00pm Monday to Friday, or by appointment on Saturdays.