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

Ceramic Artist Nicolette Johnson Gives Us 'High Spirits'

Art

Just two months ago we visited the sophisticated Brisbane home of longtime TDF fave – artist Nicolette Johnson, and her husband Tom. The pair had upsized from the apartment they shared when we first visited their home in 2016, and Nicolette’s practice has evolved a LOT since then too.

Aside from clinching the winner’s trophy in the Handcrafted category of the inaugural TDF Design Awards in 2019 (and scoring a nomination in this year’s shortlist, too!), Nicolette has been hard at work experimenting and refining her practice – producing collection after collection of astounding, original pieces.

We chatted to the artist about new ways of working, and the creative revelations this year has delivered, ahead of her show High Spirits (love that name going into 2021!) at Sophie Gannon Gallery.

4th November, 2020

Photo – Nicolette Johnson.

Photo – Nicolette Johnson.

Nicolette Johnson with her exquisite creations! Photo – Nicolette Johnson.

Photo – Nicolette Johnson.

Sasha Gattermayr
Wednesday 4th November 2020

‘2020 had a special way of turning my practice upside down and shaking it until something good came out.’ – Nicolette Johnson

From the bumps and turns of this year, a new way of thinking has emerged for Nicolette Johnson.

‘2020 had a special way of turning my practice upside down and shaking it until something good came out,’ the ceramicist explains. ‘I think my current work is unrecognisable from the works I was making a few years ago, and even from the works I was making earlier in the year!’

Between the incredibly intricate Assemblage vases Nicolette created in the first lockdown (which are shortlisted in the TDF + Laminex Design Awards, you can see more here) and the 20 pieces she has built for her new show High Spirits at Sophie Gannon Gallery, the young artist’s prolific output year represents two very distinct sides to her medium.

While creating the fiddly, detailed figures that embellish her large ‘Assemblage’ vases, many of these small decorative elements cracked under the kiln heat. As a result, Nicolette began rapidly moulding by hand, arriving at the coral-like shapes of pressed clay that now make up the handles of her High Spirits vessels. As a result, Nicolette began discovering new shapes. Bulging studded orbs and tall slim vases with rounded clay shards for handles followed, each glazed in opulent shades of deep crimson or royal blue.

The resulting organic, decorative shapes resemble anything from bone to lace to filigree, and appear like relics from another time and place. ‘The pots themselves, some with elaborate halo-like handles and others embellished with rocky studs, are shrouded in jewel-toned glazes and have a talismanic quality, as if originating from an imagined ancient world,’ she describes.

Using predominantly stoneware clay, Nicolette crafts her ethereal vessels in a tiny studio at the back of her home (see where the magic happens here). They are then fired and glazed in a space under the house!

Of the sheer volume and variety of her creative output this year, Nicolette has a few theories. ’I think that because I only arrived at clay five years ago, my practice is evolving all the time, as I search for ways to make work that speaks about who I am, or what I find beautiful or fascinating,’ she posits. Her process has been one of creative catharsis, in which she grapples with the challenges of this year, and searches for the forms that naturally emerge from its uncertainty.

‘If anything, I am feeling more confident to just make whatever I want instead of trying to figure out what other people might like,’ she says.

Words of wisdom for any creative!

High Spirits is on show at Sophie Gannon Gallery (in person!) from 4th – 21st November. Learn more here.

Obsessed with Nicolette’s amazing pieces? Us too! See more of her work here.

This Week

Architecture

A Malaysian-Inspired Adaptable House In Brisbane

'Three House' by architect John Ellway sees three pavilions brought together as one breathable, flexible home in Paddington.

Studio Visit

The Amazing Art-Making Of Thea Anamara Perkins

The Arrernte and Kalkadoon artist is renowned for her vivid, personal portraits of prominent First Nations figures. We talked to the accompl...

Homes

A Modern Family’s Treetop Rental Property

The heartwarming North Warrandyte rental of Tilly Barber, her six-year-old son Mars, and friends Albee Barton and Justyn Burrow.

Creative People

Andalusian-Inspired Lampshades, Handwoven In Sydney

Lana Launay makes her textured light covers from natural materials such as coffee-stained raffia, coconut shell rope and bamboo yarn.

In Print

A Rustic Shed Accommodation On The Victorian Surfcoast Hinterland

Lose yourself in the classic Lynda Gardener aesthetic with her new book 'Curate: Inspiration for an Individual Home' published by Hachette A...
Ali Heath

Shopping

The Aboriginal-Owned Homewares Brand Bringing First Nations Art To Homes + Classrooms Across Australia!

Bundjalung/Minjungbal woman Emma Rolls of Emro Designs shares her collection of rugs, cushions and soon-to-be-released picnic mats featuring...

Architecture

A Dessert-Inspired ‘60s Home Makeover!

From banana Paddle Pop yellow, to chocolatey timber, this 1960s home makeover by Wowowa brings colour and personality to this mid century ho...

Architecture

An Architect’s Reworking Of Sir Roy Grounds’ Former Balmain Home

A heritage 1970s house in Balmain once owned by Sir Roy Grounds has been its re-engineered by its present owner, architect Conrad Johnston o...

Interiors

This Revamped Edwardian Home Has A Different Mood For Every Room

Interior Designer Georgina Jeffries delivers a classic yet contemporary makeover of a heritage home – where moments of delight are everywh...

Art

The Secret Mystical Paintings of International Art Sensation, Hilma af Klint

The visionary Swedish artist’s enormous colourful artworks were hidden from the world for decades. Now, they are on show at Art Gallery of...

Food

Julia's Miso Salmon Bowl With Udon Noodles And Crunchy Greens

The onset of winter and lockdown in Victoria means we're back in comfort food mode – and this warm miso salmon bowl with crunchy greens h...
Julia Busuttil Nishimura

Stays

A Quaint + Charming Holiday Cottage That Feels Like Home

Lotte's Hjem is a 150-year-old weatherboard nestled in the heart of Pambula on the Sapphire Coast.

Gardens

A Grandmother's Accessible, Flower-Filled Dream Garden!

Outdoor Establishments have turned a barren acreage in outer Sydney into an elderly client's dream garden featuring Eco Outdoor products.

Creative People

A Truly Magical Tapestry Collaboration Between Local Artists + Weavers

Works by Eugenia Lim, Atong Atem, Troy Emery and Hayley Millar Baker were recrafted as tapestries by weavers at the Australian Tapestry Work...

A Day In The Life

A Day In The Life of ‘Hamilton’ Star, Chloé Zuel

We go behind the scenes of the Australian production of the most famous musical in the world - with Eliza Hamilton herself!

View Comments

Similar Stories

Studio Visit

Melbourne's Newest Ceramicist To Covet & Collect : Ella Reweti

We're loving these soft, corrugated ceramics that strike the perfect balance between function and ornament.
Sasha Gattermayr

Homes

An Artist's Thoroughly Sophisticated Brisbane Rental

Decorated with vintage furniture, treasured artwork and handmade ceramics, potter Nicolette Johnson and web designer Tom Dawson share their

Studio Visit

The Northern Rivers Ceramicist Crafting Vessels With A Soft Edge

Ceramic designer Layla Cluer shows us around her farmyard workshop in the Byron hinterlands.
Sasha Gattermayr

This Week

Interiors

This Revamped Edwardian Home Has A Different Mood For Every Room

Interior Designer Georgina Jeffries delivers a classic yet contemporary makeover of a heritage home – where moments of delight are everywh...

Stays

A Quaint + Charming Holiday Cottage That Feels Like Home

Lotte's Hjem is a 150-year-old weatherboard nestled in the heart of Pambula on the Sapphire Coast.

Creative People

A Truly Magical Tapestry Collaboration Between Local Artists + Weavers

Works by Eugenia Lim, Atong Atem, Troy Emery and Hayley Millar Baker were recrafted as tapestries by weavers at the Australian Tapestry Work...

Homes

A Modern Family’s Treetop Rental Property

The heartwarming North Warrandyte rental of Tilly Barber, her six-year-old son Mars, and friends Albee Barton and Justyn Burrow.

A Day In The Life

A Day In The Life of ‘Hamilton’ Star, Chloé Zuel

We go behind the scenes of the Australian production of the most famous musical in the world - with Eliza Hamilton herself!

Architecture

An Architect’s Reworking Of Sir Roy Grounds’ Former Balmain Home

A heritage 1970s house in Balmain once owned by Sir Roy Grounds has been its re-engineered by its present owner, architect Conrad Johnston o...

Gardens

A Grandmother's Accessible, Flower-Filled Dream Garden!

Outdoor Establishments have turned a barren acreage in outer Sydney into an elderly client's dream garden featuring Eco Outdoor products.

Studio Visit

The Amazing Art-Making Of Thea Anamara Perkins

The Arrernte and Kalkadoon artist is renowned for her vivid, personal portraits of prominent First Nations figures. We talked to the accompl...

Architecture

A Malaysian-Inspired Adaptable House In Brisbane

'Three House' by architect John Ellway sees three pavilions brought together as one breathable, flexible home in Paddington.

Food

Julia's Miso Salmon Bowl With Udon Noodles And Crunchy Greens

The onset of winter and lockdown in Victoria means we're back in comfort food mode – and this warm miso salmon bowl with crunchy greens h...
Julia Busuttil Nishimura

Art

The Secret Mystical Paintings of International Art Sensation, Hilma af Klint

The visionary Swedish artist’s enormous colourful artworks were hidden from the world for decades. Now, they are on show at Art Gallery of...

Shopping

The Aboriginal-Owned Homewares Brand Bringing First Nations Art To Homes + Classrooms Across Australia!

Bundjalung/Minjungbal woman Emma Rolls of Emro Designs shares her collection of rugs, cushions and soon-to-be-released picnic mats featuring...

Architecture

A Dessert-Inspired ‘60s Home Makeover!

From banana Paddle Pop yellow, to chocolatey timber, this 1960s home makeover by Wowowa brings colour and personality to this mid century ho...

In Print

A Rustic Shed Accommodation On The Victorian Surfcoast Hinterland

Lose yourself in the classic Lynda Gardener aesthetic with her new book 'Curate: Inspiration for an Individual Home' published by Hachette A...
Ali Heath

Creative People

Andalusian-Inspired Lampshades, Handwoven In Sydney

Lana Launay makes her textured light covers from natural materials such as coffee-stained raffia, coconut shell rope and bamboo yarn.

Similar Stories

Studio Visit

Melbourne's Newest Ceramicist To Covet & Collect : Ella Reweti

Soft, corrugated ceramics that strike the perfect balance between function and ornament.
Sasha Gattermayr

Homes

An Artist's Thoroughly Sophisticated Brisbane Rental

The art-filled Queensland cottage of Nicolette Johnson and Tom Dawson.

Studio Visit

The Northern Rivers Ceramicist Crafting Vessels With A Soft Edge

Ceramic designer Layla Cluer shows us around her farmyard workshop in the Byron hinterlands.
Sasha Gattermayr

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.