New Zealand born, Melbourne based Rose Wei has been making things for as long as she can remember. Her earliest memory starts with the Japanese anime series Sailor Moon. In kindergarten, Rose would draw these characters with such likeness, that she soon found herself running an entrepreneurial operation in the school playground, swapping her artworks for snacks and toys. ‘One time a girl traded her mother’s gold ring for one of my drawings, and my Mum made me return it the next day!’ recalls Rose.
With her Sailor Moon days behind her, these days Rose’s creative outlet is more tactile in nature. She graduated from Auckland’s Elam School of Fine Arts with honours in 2011, with a focus on watercolours and painting, before moving to Melbourne in 2012. ‘When I moved I began experimenting with other mediums,’ she says. ‘At the same time, I started collecting plants, and decided I would make vessels for them. This was my first foray into ceramics.’
Now working under the pseudonym Zhu Ohmu, Rose’s practice is inspired by a passion for the environment. She creates her organic, almost amoebic vessels entirely by hand. ‘I’m interested in exploring the symbiotic relationship between humanity and nature, so working with and learning about botanic life is very important to me,’ she notes. ‘I like to think that I collaborate with plants, although some are easier to work with than others!’
Without any formal training in ceramics, Rose’s creative approach is intuitive. ‘I let the materiality of the clay body guide me – to stack, to fold, to press, to caress, to pull away’ she says. ‘The forms seem to ebb and flow.’ All Zhu Ohmu pieces are hand built with clay coils. ‘In the beginning there was lots of trial and error, but after spending a lot of time with the material I now understand how it likes to behave’ Rose says.
Rose is currently working on pieces for WONKY, an upcoming group exhibition opening at Tinning Street art space in July. She’s also a member of the Honey Fingers urban beekeeping collective, and is collaborating on a bespoke beehive project to launch this summer. ‘I’m making planters to place on top of the beehives, which will be filled with flowers that bees love!’ she says. In the meantime, she’s saving up for a wheel throwing course. ‘I’m really curious to see whether I’d be any good at it!’
Zhu Ohmu pieces will be available for purchase at the WONKY opening at Tinning Street gallery in Brunswick on Thursday 14 July from 6.00 to 8.00pm. Exhibition runs until 24 July, with Rose giving an artist talk on Saturday 16th July. Further enquiries here.