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 Compact + Colourful Extension Of A Fun Family Home

Foomann Architects replaced this Melbourne home's dated extension with a personality-filled renovation, behind a vibrant pink door!
Christina Karras

Architecture

The Treasure-Filled Sydney Home Of Two Global Art Collectors

House Gezellig by Studio Prineas reflects their clients’ love for modernist design principles and collection of fine art.

Homes

A Stylist + Podcaster’s Layered, Textured Seaside Home

Kerrie-Ann Jones’ renovated retro pad in Sydney’s southern beaches is a sun-drenched dream home!
Lucy Feagins
  11 hours ago

Interiors

A Mediterranean-Inspired Holiday Home Right On The Water’s Edge

CLO Studios styled the interior of this new Noosa home (dubbed Sky Garden) with earthy tones and pieces by local artists.

Homes

A Creative Couple’s Loft-Style Pad, With Brooklyn Vibes!

Designer Phi Do and his husband Yaniv Brayer give us a tour through their warehouse-style Richmond townhouse.

News

Bruce Munro's Spectacular Light Installations Are Coming To Heide

See a showcase of light and colour when the acclaimed English-Australian artist takes over Heide Museum of Modern Art and its gardens!
Sponsored

Interiors

Two Sleek + Stylish Side-By-Side Homes On One Block!

This dual-occupancy build by Boutique Developments proves developments don't have to be generic, with each unit offering up its own contrast...
Christina Karras

Stays

A Dreamy Getaway With Panoramic Views In The Heart Of Hobart

Edwardian architecture meets a Japanese-style extension at this peaceful Tasmanian retreat, complete with spectacular views of the city, riv...
Christina Karras

Creative People

Artist and Yindjibarndi Elder Wendy Hubert On Mapping Country + Culture

Our new columnist Jirra Lulla Harvey talks to respected Yindjibarndi Elder, artist, Cultural Custodian and linguist, Wendy Hubert about Coun...
Jirra Lulla Harvey

Studio Visit

Kelly Thompson’s Playful Preston Showroom Clashes Colour In The Best Way

The clever creative behind online store, Makers’ Mrkt, gives us an inside look at her fun Preston stockroom-turned-store!
Christina Karras

Interiors

A Green New Addition For An Ageing Edwardian Home

Brave New Eco revitalises an existing Brunswick home for multiple generations with a new extension, natural material palette and clever use

A Day In The Life

A Day In The Life Of Costume + Production Designer, Catherine Martin

The four-time Oscar winning designer shares insights from her career working alongside husband Baz Luhrmann, and how she helped bring 'Elvis...
Christina Karras

Creative People

Landscape Studio Ayus Botanical On Creating Calming + Enduring Gardens

The husband-and-wife team of Ayus Botanical share the thoughtful processes behind their lush residential and commercial projects!
Christina Karras

Studio Visit

Kuku Yalanji Artist Tiarna Herczeg Creates Colourful Maps Of Country

The emerging artist shares how they found their creative voice and intuitive painting style, as their latest solo show opens in Sydney.
Christina Karras

Shopping

8 Local Creatives Making Furniture That Doubles As Art

Meet our favourite designers and makers pushing the limits of traditional furniture with their sculptural and striking pieces!
Christina Karras
  3 hours ago

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

Architecture

A Compact + Colourful Extension Of A Fun Family Home

Foomann Architects replaced this Melbourne home's dated extension with a personality-filled renovation, behind a vibrant pink door!
Christina Karras

Homes

A Creative Couple’s Loft-Style Pad, With Brooklyn Vibes!

Designer Phi Do and his husband Yaniv Brayer give us a tour through their warehouse-style Richmond townhouse.

Creative People

Artist and Yindjibarndi Elder Wendy Hubert On Mapping Country + Culture

Our new columnist Jirra Lulla Harvey talks to respected Yindjibarndi Elder, artist, Cultural Custodian and linguist, Wendy Hubert about Coun...
Jirra Lulla Harvey

Interiors

A Mediterranean-Inspired Holiday Home Right On The Water’s Edge

CLO Studios styled the interior of this new Noosa home (dubbed Sky Garden) with earthy tones and pieces by local artists.

A Day In The Life

A Day In The Life Of Costume + Production Designer, Catherine Martin

The four-time Oscar winning designer shares insights from her career working alongside husband Baz Luhrmann, and how she helped bring 'Elvis...
Christina Karras

Architecture

The Treasure-Filled Sydney Home Of Two Global Art Collectors

House Gezellig by Studio Prineas reflects their clients’ love for modernist design principles and collection of fine art.

Interiors

A Green New Addition For An Ageing Edwardian Home

Brave New Eco revitalises an existing Brunswick home for multiple generations with a new extension, natural material palette and clever use

News

Bruce Munro's Spectacular Light Installations Are Coming To Heide

See a showcase of light and colour when the acclaimed English-Australian artist takes over Heide Museum of Modern Art and its gardens!
Sponsored

Homes

A Stylist + Podcaster’s Layered, Textured Seaside Home

Kerrie-Ann Jones’ renovated retro pad in Sydney’s southern beaches is a sun-drenched dream home!
Lucy Feagins
  11 hours ago

Shopping

8 Local Creatives Making Furniture That Doubles As Art

Meet our favourite designers and makers pushing the limits of traditional furniture with their sculptural and striking pieces!
Christina Karras
  3 hours ago

Creative People

Landscape Studio Ayus Botanical On Creating Calming + Enduring Gardens

The husband-and-wife team of Ayus Botanical share the thoughtful processes behind their lush residential and commercial projects!
Christina Karras

Studio Visit

Kuku Yalanji Artist Tiarna Herczeg Creates Colourful Maps Of Country

The emerging artist shares how they found their creative voice and intuitive painting style, as their latest solo show opens in Sydney.
Christina Karras

Interiors

Two Sleek + Stylish Side-By-Side Homes On One Block!

This dual-occupancy build by Boutique Developments proves developments don't have to be generic, with each unit offering up its own contrast...
Christina Karras

Stays

A Dreamy Getaway With Panoramic Views In The Heart Of Hobart

Edwardian architecture meets a Japanese-style extension at this peaceful Tasmanian retreat, complete with spectacular views of the city, riv...
Christina Karras

Studio Visit

Kelly Thompson’s Playful Preston Showroom Clashes Colour In The Best Way

The clever creative behind online store, Makers’ Mrkt, gives us an inside look at her fun Preston stockroom-turned-store!
Christina Karras

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. Please email bea@thedesignfiles.net