Studio Visit

Ceramics That Celebrate The Decline Of The Disposable

Ceramicist and artist Shari Lowndes of Szilvassy spent much of her childhood in the lush landscapes of Northern New South Wales. A connection to nature not only inspired her, but directly informs her practice. Her hands are not just in the clay, but also in the earth, where she digs and hand processes her materials.

We speak with the philosophical ceramicist about the journey of her first collection, Aether, and her optimistic outlook for the decline of the disposable.

Sally Tabart

Cups and mugs from Shari Lowndes first collection, Aether. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files.

Shari wheel throws and turns each individual piece. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files.

Shari at work on the wheel. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files.

Tools in the studio. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files.

Glaze testing and objects. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files.

Shari works one day a week at SOCA in Carlton North and spends the rest of her time developing her practice. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files.

A larger piece from Shari’s studio. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files.

Shari’s Carlton North studio. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files.

Shari Lowndes, ceramicist and founder of Szilvassy. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files.

Objects in the studio. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files.

Sally Tabart
10th of September 2019

Growing up in Northern New South Wales, the subtropical landscape of ceramicist Shari Lowndes’ childhood was ‘wild and abundant’. Living on a stagnant volcano (!), the family’s remote location meant that Shari was homeschooled for most of her primary school-aged years, forging ‘an early love for artistic expression’. After completing high school in Beechworth, Shari moved to Melbourne, and in 2014 commenced an Art program at SOCA (School of Clay and Art) in Brunswick, where she now works one day a week as a studio technician. The rest of the week Shari focuses on her own practice under the name SZILVASSY, recently launching her first collection of functional handmade vessels.

Comprising 12 wheel thrown and turned pieces, Aether is a simple series of tableware that highlights the natural qualities of the clay, paying respect to the origins of the material. Made from Australian red clay and finished with a Wattle ash-based glaze, Shari has developed a keen interest in the origin of clays throughout Australia, traveling to various locations, digging and hand processing the clay herself. ‘It has become a labour of love – an enjoyably messy one’ she says!

Shari connects this collection to a quote from celebrated British sculptor and environmentalist Andy Goldsworthy, in reference to the colour red in nature – ‘The red is a vein running around the earth. It has taught me about the flow, energy and life that connects one place with another’. For Shari, this is reminiscent of where she grew up, on land enriched by red iron oxides. ‘My formative years influenced how I see the world, and defined an intimate relationship with nature’, she tells. ‘This has embedded a values system that I draw on in my artistic practice today’.

Shari’s practice is as much rooted in philosophy as it is the act of creating itself. Citing Japanese sensibilities as an inspiration, she finds deep satisfaction in the time and energy taken to resolve each piece, and how this commitment is imbued in the final product. More broadly, she sees a ‘vast collective movement’ guiding us towards placing higher value on the process. ‘This comes at a critical time when we need to be accountable for what we produce and place in the world’, she says. ‘I have to look at this period as exciting, as it announces the need to decline in our disposable culture and encourage a new relationship with the objects we choose to live with’.

With this positive outlook, the future looks bright for Shari. Later this year, she will be in New York to work on a private commission, and early next year will show a solo exhibition showcasing larger scale and sculptural works.

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