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Bonnie Hislop Is The Ceramicist-Cheerleader We Need Right Now

Creative People

Over the last six months, has anyone else found themselves repeating affirmations under their breath like mantras? This is fine. Everything will be okay. I can do this. Same. These aphorisms are a necessary soundtrack getting us through the days at our #workingfromhome stations, or soothing us as we check the 14-day rolling average for the millionth time that day.

Brisbane-based ceramicist Bonnie Hislop sees you, hears you and is here to be your hype-woman. Her newest collection of handbuilt vessels are a response to the intense periods of isolation the pandemic has forced upon us, and the mounting frustrations and incredulity everyone is experiencing in its wake.

Bonnie’s colourful clay trophies are funny and colourful but most of all, they’re consolation prizes for a year where none of us were winners.

7th October, 2020

The Better Luck Next Year collection is a series of ceramic trophies that act as consolation prizes for a year we’d all prefer to leave behind. Photo – Anwyn Howarth.

Ceramicist Bonnie Hislop! Photo – Anwyn Howarth.

Bonnie creates all her pieces in her light-filled studio in Brisbane. Photo – Anwyn Howarth.

Each vessel in the collection took 20-30 hours to build, paint, glaze and fire. Photo – Charlotte Tegan.

We’ve all told ourselves this this year! Photo – Anwyn Howarth.

Bonnie handbuilds all her pieces, meaning she doesn’t use moulds or a wheel! It takes longer, but the payoff is in the individuality of each original form. Photo – Charlotte Tegan.

‘This collection is a response to the collective experience of COVID-19 and isolation, and the feelings of frustration during this time,’ says Bonnie. Photo – Anwyn Howarth.

Sasha Gattermayr
Wednesday 7th October 2020

‘They are humorous, light hearted acknowledgments of collective anxiety, fatigue and frustration in ceramic form.’ – Bonnie Hislop

Is there anything, I ask you, as categorically FUN as Bonnie Hislop’s ceramics? The Brisbane-based artist has spent this very weird year experimenting with the more conceptual side of her practice – life-affirming pottery.

Better Luck Next Year is a series of handbuilt ceramic trophies emblazoned with of-the-moment slang like ‘Um okay wow’ and ‘This is fine’. These catchphrases to modern life have gained traction over the Internet in the last decade, and hold particular pertinence in 2020. You’re doing great, hun! is what everyone needs to hear right now.

‘This collection is a response to the collective experience of COVID-19 and isolation, and the feelings of frustration during this time,’ Bonnie says. The colourful, wobbly creations are a deferent, exhausted nod to a year we’re all probably glad to see the back of. But as timely as this collection feels, Bonnie’s pieces have always been about having as much fun as possible (what’s more joyous than a Super Duper Sized Dreamland Fantasy Leopard Planter?) and doing things her way.

‘The satisfaction is in the process of discovery, uncovering the concept and personality of a piece by keeping open to play,’ she explains of her process, which is based on intuition. ‘I find if I pre-plan too much, I’ve already moved on from the piece in my mind before it’s even made.’

Despite this spontaneity, a lot of time goes into constructing each of Bonnie’s vessels. Every vase and trophy in the collection took roughly 20-30 hours to build, paint, dry and fire. As they are made from stoneware clay, all her pieces are fired multiple times and undergo layers of glaze and ceramic lustres after each session in the kiln. You can see the detail in an online exhibition of the collection at Third Quarter Gallery, from October 9th – 23rd.

Though this collection of slogan-embossed vessels symbolises a funny, sarcastic reaction to 2020, they are also the result of a lifetime spent creating. Bonnie inherited her love of ceramics from her mother, an illustrator and ceramicist. Bonnie built her practice through years of amateur classes – starting at age 8 – and in her mid-twenties, taught herself to handbuild (freeform clay sculpting without moulds or a wheel). She now teaches the process to other budding ceramicists from her warehouse studio in Brisbane.

With 2021 looming, THIS is the energy we need right now.

Click here to shop Bonnie’s playful designs or enrol in her ceramic workshops.

An online exhibition of ‘Better Luck Next Year’ will be held at Third Quarter Gallery from 8pm on 9th – 23rd October.

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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. Please email bea@thedesignfiles.net