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Tara Burke


Tara Burke is a Sydney-based ceramicist whose off-kilter aesthetic has captured our attention and our hearts! Her tactile vessels are quirky and distinctive – tall and wonky vases, hugged by thin, oversized handles. The materials and textures in these pieces reflect Tara’s love of the imperfect.

Tara works out of a sunlit warehouse studio in Marrickville, NSW, which she shares with other artists, painters and photographers. Our Sydney writer Elisha Kennedy recently paid her a visit!

20th October, 2016
Elisha Kennedy
Thursday 20th October 2016

Tara Burke‘s foray into ceramics began four years ago, when she fell in love with a pair of beautiful ceramic vases she had bought for a friend’s wedding, made by Ilona Topolcsanyi and Colin Hopkins of Cone 11 Ceramics. These delicate ceramic vessels made such an impression on Tara that she got in touch with Ilona and Colin, and spent a year learning beside them at the wheel in their Abbotsford Convent Studio.

‘It was such a lovely way to learn, but there are so many rules on the wheel and I was never very good at it if I’m being honest. I suppose I didn’t really find my groove until I began hand building,’ Tara explains.

Tara balances her ceramics work with her studies. After studying Anthropology in Melbourne, she moved to Sydney, where she enrolled in ceramics at Sydney College of The Arts. Here she delved into hand building with clay, and discovered that this free-form way of working suited her best, shaping things liberally with her palms and forming intricacies with her fingers. Now, Tara juggles her work with an Arts/Law degree! She frequently finds herself last to bed and first out the door in the mornings, as she squeezes studio time in between classes and late nights with her textbooks.

Tara’s process tends to be intuitive. Some pieces start out as a sketch, whilst others form organically. ‘It’s difficult to plan and design a ceramic piece too intently because the material usually dictates the end result, which is in equal parts frustrating and exciting,’ she says.

This year has been formative for Tara. There has been a collaboration with the NGV, some impressive commissions, a trip to Japan and a new studio space. ‘I’m really excited about the launch of a book called Clay written by Amber Creswell Bell, released this month. The book peers into the studio lives of 55 contemporary ceramicists including myself! It’s a project that I have loved being involved in.’

Tara’s work can be seen in the ‘Clay’ ceramics exhibition at Saint Cloche Gallery in Paddington, NSW, 20th – 23rd October.

Tara Burke in her Sydney studio. Photo – Nikki To for The Design Files.

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