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Meet The Emerging Artist Using An Unexpected Year, To Make Unexpected Objects

Creative People

Lucy Tolan is one of those rare people who knew exactly what she wanted to be when she grew up, and set about doing it as soon as she could. After finishing high school, she went straight to art school to study ceramics, and from there, launched her professional ceramics practice just last year.

By combining underused materials like porcelain paper clay with everyday debris like rocks and plaster tiles, the young artist’s unexpected sculpted forms and vessels can really claim to be one-of-a-kind. We found Lucy’s bright, irregular pieces on her eye catching new website (designed by Mildred & Duck) and knew we had to chat to her immediately about these wonderfully wobbly designs!

2nd September, 2020

Photo – Shelley Horan. Art Direction + Styling by Mildred & Duck. Tiled plinths by Occasional Pieces.

Photo – Shelley Horan. Art Direction + Styling by Mildred & Duck. Tiled plinths by Occasional Pieces.

Photo – Shelley Horan. Art Direction + Styling by Mildred & Duck. Tiled plinths by Occasional Pieces.

Photo – Shelley Horan. Art Direction + Styling by Mildred & Duck. Tiled plinths by Occasional Pieces.

Photo – Shelley Horan. Art Direction + Styling by Mildred & Duck. Tiled plinths by Occasional Pieces.

Photo – Shelley Horan. Art Direction + Styling by Mildred & Duck. Tiled plinths by Occasional Pieces.

Photo – Shelley Horan. Art Direction + Styling by Mildred & Duck. Tiled plinths by Occasional Pieces.

Photo – Shelley Horan. Art Direction + Styling by Mildred & Duck. Tiled plinths by Occasional Pieces.

Photo – Shelley Horan. Art Direction + Styling by Mildred & Duck. Tiled plinths by Occasional Pieces.

Photo – Shelley Horan. Art Direction + Styling by Mildred & Duck. Tiled plinths by Occasional Pieces.

Sasha Gattermayr
Wednesday 2nd September 2020

‘Prior to lockdown, the idea of trying to go full time as an artist felt so daunting, however, I no longer had anything to lose. ’ – Lucy Tolan

Having graduated from a Bachelor of Fine Arts in 2018, and taken a bit of time off to cycle around Taiwan, artist Lucy Tolan didn’t have much time to find her groove before the challenges of this year kicked in. The Melbourne-based creative has moved through four different studios in the last six months due to the the ebb and flow of undulating pandemic restrictions; but luckily, these unpredictable transitions have proved nomadic and inspiring rather than disruptive. Lucy has made the most of this monumental period of flux to inform both her creative process, and her practical business sense.

In fact, between shuffling from space to space and launching her online store, this time has been so fruitful for Lucy’s practice, she has created an entire collection of new objects. Titled Seams, this body of work is due to be shown at Craft Victoria at the end of the month (if restrictions permit!). All of a sudden, Lucy found herself to be a full-time artist fresh out of uni!

We chatted to the artist about her fledgling brand of unique vessels, where her inspiration comes from and how to find momentum in a challenging time.

Hey Lucy! First and foremost, can you tell me about the space in which you typically create?

I’m temporarily working out of my share house garage in Ascot Vale, but rent a shared a studio space in Fitzroy, which I’ll be returning to after stage 4 lockdown. I’m really excited to establish a space that feels more permanent and turn it into something that inspires me. I’m also keen to surround myself with other artists, I think it’s so important to be engaging with others while making. I don’t know if that’ll be entirely possible for the next little while, but I’m making the most of the current situation with lots of podcasts.

Can you tell me a little about the process of actually creating your works?

Many of my objects are made with stoneware clay, however I’ve also begun using a porcelain paper clay that I adore. I prefer to use paper clay for its strength and ability to hold intricate texture. I create texture with a variety of objects, such as rocks and plaster tiles.

Slab-building and hand coiling are the primary techniques I use. I’ve also been disassembling and reassembling objects, which will be presented in my exhibition Seams. I use underglazes to produce bold colours, and often only glaze the interior to allow for a matte, porous exterior.

Do you have any key references or inspirations?

Textiles and architecture are my two key references when building a vessel. Textiles for their fluidity, texture and repetition. Architecture for texture and form, in particular brutalist and modernist architecture. I also look for different textures within my surrounds that I can use or replicate.

It’s been a wild year, especially for a new graduate. How has this period of isolation we’ve just been through affected your work?

During this period of isolation I’ve learnt to lean into the circumstances, and my art practice has gained momentum. Without a job, I had the opportunity to dedicate more of my time to making, and learning how to turn my practice into a small business.

Prior to lockdown, the idea of trying to go full time as an artist felt so daunting, however, I no longer had anything to lose, but rather gain. I guess I’ve had more energy to conceptualise and contemplate not just my practice, but myself and the world we share.

Lucy will be adding more pieces to her online store in the coming months. To keep up-to-date, follow her on Instagram here.

Seams will be exhibited at Craft Victoria from September 29th to November 7th, 2020. 

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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.