Creative People

Contemporary Ceramics That Look Like Ancient Relics, By Emily Brookfield

There aren’t many people who can say with confidence they have a calling, but that’s how Emily Brookfield describes her blossoming pottery career.

‘I’d been thinking of taking pottery classes for ages, but never acted on it,’ she says. Sitting on a train one day, on the way to her retail job, she thought “stuff it!”. The rest is history…

Sasha Gattermayr

Ceramicist Emily Brookfield in her Yarra Valley studio.

Photo – Emily Brookfield.

Photo – Emily Brookfield.

Photo – Emily Brookfield.

Sasha Gattermayr
31st of January 2020

From bulbous, pistachio-hued vessels and baby pink cylindrical vases, each unique piece by Yarra Valley based ceramicist Emily Brookfield  is textured with hand-carved indentations that feel almost prehistoric. As Emily says, ‘I’m inspired by how old the art form is, ceramics is ancient!’

Since beginning a Fine Arts degree and discovering the conceptual side of ceramics, Emily has shifted her practice to focus on sculptural exploration. Her pieces evolve as she learns more about the craft. Emily’s first solo show, In Conversation, was held late last year at Brunswick Street Gallery, and she has more in the pipeline for this year!

Hey Emily! Your pieces are so colourful and unique, how did you start making ceramics? What has been your creative journey so far?

I have always felt the need to be creative in some way. I’ve worked in visual merchandising and styling, and I’ve even tried my hand at illustration, but nothing really held my interest the way ceramics has.

The first class was so much harder than I thought it would be. I went into it like so many others do, thinking that I’d leave after one lesson with a finished cup. I was definitely determined to keep going and I ended up quitting my retail job to help out at the studio for a short while to learn as much as I could!

I then started Emily Only, with a focus to create homewares made in small batches. I took my wares to markets around Victoria, and then felt that I needed to push my practice further, so decided to go back to study. I’m going into my second year at RMIT studying a Bachelor of Fine Arts with a Ceramics specialisation, which has completely changed the way I work with clay. I’m shifting my focus towards sculptural pieces, but I feel there will always be an element of my work that is functional in some way.

Where do you create your work?

I work from a spare bedroom in my home out in the Yarra Valley. It’s a small space but there’s enough room for my wheel, a kneading table and some shelves and that’s really all I need. I do also have a small kiln out in my shed that I use for bisque firings as well.

What do you love about what you do?

I love working with my hands and seeing the piece come together and evolve. You don’t realise how much your style changes and improves until it’s in front of you. I also love that the medium is so versatile yet fragile at the same time. I was told by my first teacher that you will never know everything about ceramics. Not even masters know everything about it.

There’s no real formula for making something, only guidelines, so there’s a lot of trial and error, even with things you know and have made so many times. The fact that chance plays a huge part in it is exciting.

Do you have any key references or inspirations?

I’m inspired by our connection to objects and why we become so attached to certain things. Being able to tell a story through an object is fascinating to me.

Keep up with Emily’s exhibition news on Instagram and view her amazing collections on her website.

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