‘Our house is really full. The family live upstairs, then downstairs on one side is my studio, and on the other side is my husband’s business, a cheeserie. So pots come out of one side and buffalo mozzarella comes out of the other!’ ceramicist Shannon Garson explains cheerfully. The scenario in her rambling family cottage, perched atop a hill in the Sunshine Coast hinterland town of Maleny, is indeed unique.
Shannon has worked as a ceramic artist for the last twenty years, refining her throwing skills and studying decorative techniques throughout the world. In 2005 she received a Churchill Fellowship, which allowed her to spend three months travelling in Europe studying the art of the medieval and Renaissance periods. As a result, she brings solid skills in observation and composition, along with formal elements of draftsmanship to ceramics through training her hand and eye as a painter – this lends a distinctiveness to Shannon’s work that sets it apart.
Porcelain is the artist’s clay of choice, for its beautiful surface quality and interaction with colour. ‘I want the surface of the pot to be part of the drawing, not just a surface for the drawing to sit on,’ Shannon describes. ‘I want the whole pot to be experienced, from the weight of it as you pick it up, the texture, the drawing, colour, smoothness of the glaze – all the elements draw a person into experiencing the vessel.’
Shannon’s practice is punctuated with regular exhibition work, which loops back and guides the evolution of her domestic collections. Each body of exhibition work is inspired by a landscape. ‘Drawing the landscape onto pots creates a stronger connection between our interior or domestic lives, and the landscape they are taking place within,’ she reflects.
Outside Shannon’s studio in the garden is a giant eucalypt tree; if you look closely you can see loads of tiny Welcome Swallows looping through the air and between branches. ‘Welcome Swallows were named by sailors as the sight of their flashing blue bodies and red breasts mean that land is near,’ says Shannon. These swallows are the small migratory bird that also gather in a marsh area nearby where Shannon goes walking. They form the inspiration for her latest exhibition, Precious Nature – a series of large gently rocking bowls, unsteady on their rounded bases as the swallows swoop in a drawing across the surfaces, inside and outside, over the rims and underneath. ‘Welcome swallows capture both the gladness of returning home, and the strange melancholy of the end of the journey.’
Precious Nature opens at Beaver Galleries, 81 Denison Street, Deakin, Canberra, on October 17th and runs until November 3rd.
As well as making and exhibiting work, Shannon also runs occasional creative tours, retreats and workshops called ‘Creative Voyages’, which look and sound amazing. Keep up to date with Shannon’s creative journey: @shannongarson