Studio Visit

Embracing The Mistakes With Ceramicist Hana Vasak

‘If at first, you don’t succeed, try, try and try again!’ goes the age-old idiom… usually offered up by a well-meaning parent. For Melbourne-based ceramicist, Hana Vasak of of Dáša Ceramics, persistence in honing her craft has certainly paid off!

We visit the Czech-born, Australian-raised ceramicist in her sunny Northcote studio, to chat about learning from mistakes, and knowing when to take the next step.

Sally Tabart

Hana Vasak of Dáša Ceramics in her sunny Northcote home studio. Photo – Amelia Stanwix.

Works in progress for an upcoming show in Sydney. Photo – Amelia Stanwix.

Hana committed to focusing more on her practice about a year ago. Photo – Amelia Stanwix.

Hana demonstrating an ancient burnishing technique, using a smooth rock to gently polish the clay surface to expose the subtle tones and soft textures. Photo – Amelia Stanwix.

Hana first builds the shape, then carves out the interior of her vessels. Photo – Amelia Stanwix.

Hana’s recent inspiration came from travels in Spain and Greece last year. Photo – Amelia Stanwix.

Hana begins the process by documenting her desired final outcome first. Photo – Amelia Stanwix.

Studio details. Photo – Amelia Stanwix.

Tools for crafting her vessels. Photo – Amelia Stanwix.

Sally Tabart
19th of February 2019

After finishing up a degree in Fine Art at RMIT, where she focussed on video and sculptural installation, Hana Vasak of Dáša Ceramics almost immediately turned her attention to clay.

Fascinated by working with porcelain, Hana enrolled in a beginner’s wheel-throwing course after university. ‘I learned very early on that the wheel was definitely not for me!’, she admits. Unperturbed, Hana moved on to try hand-building, blending and adapting different techniques to find her sweet spot as an artist and develop a self-guided practice.

Making wobbly, organic vessels under the label Dáša Ceramics, a sell-out show at Saint Cloche gallery in Sydney, and inclusion in a group exhibition at Modern Times alongside long-admired ceramicists gave Hana the courage she needed to move forward. ‘The creative path can be quite daunting sometimes’, she admits, ‘I feel very blessed to be able to do what fulfills me most’.

Hana possesses a rare resilience that allows her to transform perceived ‘mistakes’ into growth and success. After a disappointing moment a few years ago, when a freshly fired batch of new works were all discovered with hairline fractures, Hana was able to re-frame this setback. ‘I couldn’t bear to part with them’, Hana recalls of the broken vessels. She later took a small, cracked vase along with her on a trip to Japan, where she learned about the tradition and technique of Kintsugi, ‘incorporating this technique ever since’ into many of her pieces. It’s not just the aesthetic style of the technique that resonated with Hana, she was also drawn to its philosophy of ‘embracing and accentuating an object’s imperfection, allowing these to be seen as the piece’s story’.

Working out of her sunny studio in Northcote ‘overlooking a small garden shaded by a canopy of a gum and feijoa tree’ (umm okay that sounds quite nice), Hana’s process for creating her sculptural vessels starts with ‘lots of preliminary drawings’, after which she takes to a solid block of clay with her hands. After she’s happy with the shape, she carves out the interior, allowing the outside of her pieces to appear smooth, whilst the inside bares the maker’s hand and marks.

Since embarking upon her practice, Hana has thrived amongst Melbourne’s supportive creative communities, though she’s cautious of doing too much, too fast. ‘I’ve learned to slow down, to be more realistic of the time I have and what I am actually able to achieve,’ she shares, ‘I’ve been mindful of not over-committing and embracing working at a slower pace’. Sage advice for us all!

You can see Hana’s work in person at her local and international stockists, and in an upcoming exhibition. Mud House will take place in Sydney in mid-May, featuring Hana’s works alongside Kathryn Dolby, curated by Amber Creswell Bell.

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