This website uses cookies to improve your experience navigating our site. By continuing to browse, you are agreeing to our use of cookies.

OK, I understand

Ornate, Oozing Ceramics By Ebony Russell

Studio Visit

We don’t tend to think of ‘cake decoration’ as an art form, but in Renaissance Europe, ornate ‘sugar sculpture’ was a highly esteemed craft, displayed at Royal palaces and grand feasts, as a symbol of luxury and excess. (Think Marie Antoinette, The Palace of Versailles, etc!)

In the Sydney suburb of Glebe, visual artist and educator Ebony Russell continues this tradition in her own contemporary art practice. Referencing the traditionally ‘female’ craft of cake decoration to create her droopy, glazed porcelain forms, Ebony explores the intersection of cake decoration, craft and feminism. For real!

2nd July, 2020

Ebony Russell is a visual artist using cake decorating techniques to create her totally unique porcelain sculptures. Photo – Simon Hewson.

Sculptural details. Photo – Simon Hewson.

Ebony’s finished pieces marry whimsy and weirdness with an underlying sense of purpose. Photo – Simon Hewson.

Fine porcelain ribbons hold their textured rivulets in perfectly slumped form. Photo – Simon Hewson.

This finished globular sculpture looks like coils of toothpaste stacked on top of one another! Photo – Simon Hewson.

Creating blobs of porcelain ornaments with her trusty piping bag. Photo – Peter Morgan.

These candelabras are made from layers upon layers of porcelain squeezed through different shaped nozzles on a piping bag, traditionally used for cake decorating. They look like a mermaid’s treasure concealed in an underground grotto! Photo – Simon Hewson.

A corner of the studio resembles a confectioner’s workshop! Photo – Peter Morgan.

A candle-stick holder is one of Ebony’s functional objects. Photo – Simon Hewson.

Sasha Gattermayr
Thursday 2nd July 2020

Raised by a family of creative women who used craft as an avenue for creative and financial independence, Ebony Russell is fascinated with the feminist agency her ceramics practice holds.

‘Looking back now, I can see how my love of art was shaped by the craft practices of my mother, aunts and grandmothers,’ she explains. ‘The skills that were passed down through the traditions from both sides of my immigrant family, shaped my love of craft and art from an early age. I was always surrounded by women making things for love and for family.’

Surrounded by this web of artistic maternal influences, Ebony knew she wanted to be an artist from an early age. After 15 years of full time teaching (and raising two daughters!), Ebony finally returned to study in her late thirties. She graduated from a Master’s of Fine Arts from the National Art School in Sydney just last year, and has taken up permanent residence at experimental ceramics studio Kil.n.it in Glebe. With two kilns in her backyard for midnight lustering sessions, lecturing undergraduate Fine Arts students, teaching extracurricular art classes at her daughters’ primary school and upcoming solo exhibitions in Melbourne and Sydney, it feels like Ebony’s ceramic style has entered the world fully formed!

Steeped in historical references, Ebony’s ornate forms are at once opulent, oozing, and organic. Her drip castles with their toothpaste-like coils are squeezed through a cake piping bag before they are glazed and fired. Symbolically, the use of these confectioner’s tools is bound up with legacies of seduction, consumption and desire, but these heavy historical associations appear playful and weird in this fresh contemporary context.

Ebony’s distinct style combines a complicated, layered aesthetic with naive pleasure and delight. Sometimes she incorporates perspex, glass and fibre into her constructions to really push the structure of her medium to its limits, catching a sculpture right before it collapses beyond repair. It’s this moment of deterioration that Ebony is seeking to capture, hoping to hold and preserve her tottering forms right at the cusp of ruin.

Ebony is inspired by the infinite possibilities of her material, and the potential to explore and subvert traditionally ‘feminine’ creative practices. ‘I will never master all of clay, there is always another direction to pursue, new glazes, different clay bodies, endless techniques and processes to play with’ she says. ‘It will always be exciting to me.’

A major solo exhibition of Ebony’s works will be held at Artereal Gallery from 4th – 28th November, including a large-scale ceramic installation.

Ebony’s conceptual and sculptural work is represented by Artereal. Her one of a kind functional objects are available to shop via Piped Dreams Studio.

This Week

Architecture

A Modernist-Inspired Seaside Home

This adaptable, Victorian seaside home designed by Nest Architects and Placement blurs the line between modernism and contemporary design. ...

Architecture

Everything You Need To Know About Working With An Architect

Four of Australia's best architects answer your frequently asked questions, from what an architect does, to how much they cost!

Interiors

A Glam ’60s-Inspired Makeover For A Drab Suburban Home

Kaiko Design transform a forgettable suburban space into a ritzy family residence, with big personality!

Interiors

Get The Look: Dark + Moody Bathrooms And Kitchens

All the product and styling advice you need to achieve the dark, moody bathrooms and kitchen interiors trend, brought to you Oliveri.

Gardens

A WOW-Factor 'Secret Garden' In Blairgowrie

Ian Barker Gardens creates a private outdoor sanctuary on the Mornington Peninsula.
51:47

Podcast

Country Road’s Managing Director On The Stickiness Of Sustainable Fashion, On TDF Talks

In this podcast conversation, Elle Roseby talks leading one of the country’s most iconic brands through a new age in the fashion industry....

On The Market

A Light + Bright Beachside Home Hits The Market

This property in Sunrise Beach, Noosa is a full time home that feels like a holiday home - and it’s ready for new inhabitants!

Studio Visit

Two Best Friends' Lockdown Hobby Turned Cult Candle Business

Creative entrepreneurs Ruby Kannava and Emma Cutri pooled their respective small business knowledge to found Blazed Wax - a colourful, cult-...

Interiors

A Colour-Drenched, 'Grandmillennial' Home In North Sydney

Bold colour, and both English and Moroccan influences come together in this North Sydney home by Lisa Burdus.

News

The TDF ‘ALL THE THINGS’ 500k Giveaway!

Help us celebrate half a million (!) Insta followers with epic prize packs for three lucky readers! 

TDF Design Awards

The Sensational Interior Design Finalists In The TDF + Laminex Design Awards 2021!

The 12 incredible residential projects in the running to win the Interior Design award at the TDF + Laminex Design Awards 2021, presented by...

News

Shop These Plush Woollen Rugs And Get A Special TDF Discount!

Carpet Court’s customisable rug range is made with 100% New Zealand wool and can be cut to suit the size, shape and colour of your interio...
Sponsored

Homes

A Designer’s 1970s Bells Beach Dream Home!

The incredible eclectic home of interior designer Léo Terrando and Jessica Watts, on Victoria's surf coast.

Interiors

A Joyful Home, Full Of Whimsy + Glamour

Scalloped edges and vibrant colours have elevated this Sydney terrace by Arent&Pyke.
Amelia Barnes
  2 hours ago

News

Get Luxe Designer Furniture For Up To 15% Off!

Designer furniture retailer DOMO is discounting in-stock and custom items from HC28 + HC28 Cosmopolitan.
Sponsored

View Comments

Similar Stories

Studio Visit

The Painted Papier-Mâché World Of Morgana Celeste

The multi-disciplined creative and emerging artist shares her process ahead of her first solo exhibition, online now at pépite.
Sasha Gattermayr

Studio Visit

Julia Trybala's Paintings Are About The Politics Of Taking Up Space

The Melbourne-based artist creates paintings of the female form, with an intimacy and energy that is hard to look away from.
Sasha Gattermayr

Creative People

Terrazzo Queen Tantri Mustika's New Shop + Studio!

The big-dreaming Melbourne ceramicist has just opened the doors to her new retail store in Collingwood Yards, Melbourne!

This Week

Interiors

A Joyful Home, Full Of Whimsy + Glamour

Scalloped edges and vibrant colours have elevated this Sydney terrace by Arent&Pyke.
Amelia Barnes
  2 hours ago

Interiors

Get The Look: Dark + Moody Bathrooms And Kitchens

All the product and styling advice you need to achieve the dark, moody bathrooms and kitchen interiors trend, brought to you Oliveri.

News

The TDF ‘ALL THE THINGS’ 500k Giveaway!

Help us celebrate half a million (!) Insta followers with epic prize packs for three lucky readers! 
51:47

Podcast

Country Road’s Managing Director On The Stickiness Of Sustainable Fashion, On TDF Talks

In this podcast conversation, Elle Roseby talks leading one of the country’s most iconic brands through a new age in the fashion industry....

News

Shop These Plush Woollen Rugs And Get A Special TDF Discount!

Carpet Court’s customisable rug range is made with 100% New Zealand wool and can be cut to suit the size, shape and colour of your interio...
Sponsored

News

Get Luxe Designer Furniture For Up To 15% Off!

Designer furniture retailer DOMO is discounting in-stock and custom items from HC28 + HC28 Cosmopolitan.
Sponsored

Gardens

A WOW-Factor 'Secret Garden' In Blairgowrie

Ian Barker Gardens creates a private outdoor sanctuary on the Mornington Peninsula.

Homes

A Designer’s 1970s Bells Beach Dream Home!

The incredible eclectic home of interior designer Léo Terrando and Jessica Watts, on Victoria's surf coast.

Interiors

A Glam ’60s-Inspired Makeover For A Drab Suburban Home

Kaiko Design transform a forgettable suburban space into a ritzy family residence, with big personality!

On The Market

A Light + Bright Beachside Home Hits The Market

This property in Sunrise Beach, Noosa is a full time home that feels like a holiday home - and it’s ready for new inhabitants!

Interiors

A Colour-Drenched, 'Grandmillennial' Home In North Sydney

Bold colour, and both English and Moroccan influences come together in this North Sydney home by Lisa Burdus.

Architecture

A Modernist-Inspired Seaside Home

This adaptable, Victorian seaside home designed by Nest Architects and Placement blurs the line between modernism and contemporary design. ...

TDF Design Awards

The Sensational Interior Design Finalists In The TDF + Laminex Design Awards 2021!

The 12 incredible residential projects in the running to win the Interior Design award at the TDF + Laminex Design Awards 2021, presented by...

Studio Visit

Two Best Friends' Lockdown Hobby Turned Cult Candle Business

Creative entrepreneurs Ruby Kannava and Emma Cutri pooled their respective small business knowledge to found Blazed Wax - a colourful, cult-...

Architecture

Everything You Need To Know About Working With An Architect

Four of Australia's best architects answer your frequently asked questions, from what an architect does, to how much they cost!

Similar Stories

Studio Visit

The Painted Papier-Mâché World Of Morgana Celeste

The multi-disciplined creative and emerging artist shares her process ahead of her first solo exhibition.
Sasha Gattermayr

Studio Visit

Julia Trybala's Paintings Are About The Politics Of Taking Up Space

The Melbourne-based artist creates paintings of the female form, with an intimacy that is hard to look away from.
Sasha Gattermayr

Creative People

Terrazzo Queen Tantri Mustika's New Shop + Studio!

The big-dreaming Melbourne ceramicist has just opened the doors to her new retail store in Collingwood Yards, Melbourne!

The Design Files acknowledge the traditional custodians of the lands on which we work, the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation. We pay our respects to Elders past and present.

First Nations artists, designers, makers and creative business owners are encouraged to submit their projects for coverage on The Design Files – we would love to hear from you.

Please email us here.