Since we first got to know Milly Dent, back in late 2014, she’s been diligently researching the origins of porcelain, its production, and its versatile functionality. Outside of material studies, she’s also been busy collaborating with some of our favourite artists including Claire Johnson, Pip Stent, Flora Waycott and Evi O to develop her practice beyond ceramics.
Most recently, however, Milly was supported by the Australia Council for the Arts to undertake an artist’s residency at Kouraku Kiln in Arita, Japan’s birthplace of porcelain. From March, she lived in old worker’s dorms in the mountainous township, and had a table in a small studio just next to the factory. ‘I ended up spending most my time inside the factory, working among the artisans there, where I was able to get a true understanding of how Japanese porcelain is used in slip casting and pressure moulding,’ Milly explains.
These new-found skills have given rise to two new collections. ‘It was such an incredibly productive time for me and I managed to achieve exactly what I wanted in my practice, a fresh and free perspective!’ she tells of her three-month Japan stay.
Milly’s Dango Gem Collection is based on her signature Gem Cup, which she began crafting three years ago. ‘The tones of this range were inspired by “Hanami Dango’ Japanese rice treats served during the Cherry Blossom season,’ she details. Each sandblasted colour variety comes in a limited edition of 10.
Meanwhile, her Sora Collection – with Kumo Cup, the Ame Flute and the Minamo Saucer – focusses on the design considerations of form, material and capacity. The pieces were designed during her first two weeks in Japan, and made thereafter by casting in Japanese porcelain and glazing in traditional Seiji Glaze. ‘With help of the local mould makers, we managed to create pristine prototypes and moulds which were crucial to achieve the sharp outcomes,’ explains the ceramicist.
Milly relays so many amazing takeaways from her time in Japan, including discovering the inspiring work of Akio Momota, and the idea that things don’t need to be large and bold to draw attention, on the contrary that smaller pieces with minimalist details can be equally as thoughtful and engaging. Her greatest revelation, by far, was coming to understand the full process of porcelain production, with Milly admitting she had no idea how the clay was made prior to the residency! ‘It is one of those materials that you only learn through doing, so the more you do it, the more you know,’ says Milly. ‘The quality control over the materials, casting, glazing and making of the work is above and beyond what I have ever known in my own studio!’
Milly Dent’s ceramics are available from her website, here, or at WIP Pop-Up Shop at Blank Space from September 2nd to 8th. She is also exhibiting a solo show of sculptural residency work at Saint Cloche Gallery from September 13th to 24th.