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Inside Ceramicist Mali Taylor's Meditative Practice

Studio Visit

Ceramicist Mali Taylor traces her love of ‘getting her hands dirty’ back to her childhood in northern New South Wales. Although she’s now based in Melbourne after moving here to study a Bachelor of Fine Arts at RMIT in 2016, the prolific maker says her creative journey started at a small Steiner school in Wollumbin, NSW.

Mali’s delicately coiled creations range from sculptural vases, treasure plates, planter pots to earthy kitchenware – all ‘undoubtedly influenced’ from her younger days immersed in nature. Read on for more about her thoughtful practice.

10th March, 2022

Mali’s incredible and intricate pieces! Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files.

Shelves in Mali’s studio are full of her works, including her Cocoon Vases, Treasure Plates, and Deep Bowls. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files.

‘Making ceramics means a lot of different things to me, but ultimately it provides me with a creative outlet for self-expression and a space to heal. I also just like making pretty things that bring others joy and l love getting my hands dirty every day and watching mud morph to sculpture,’ Mali explains. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files.

Mali says her technique of coiling is so repetitive it’s like meditation. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files.

‘Although my practice is heavily influenced by the natural environment I also find inspiration in woven objects and cane furniture. The forms of my functional wares are inspired by vintage brass vases – I love their pot bellies, elegant necks and wide rims!’ Spot Mali’s own Pot Belly Vases. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files.

She painstakingly hand rolls each coil! Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files.

Mali likes to keep the glazing of her pieces to a minimum. ‘I want to accentuate the beautiful matte texture of the fine exposed coils and the glossy mineral flecks of the clay body I use,’ she says. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files.

The artist will be looking for a new home and studio space soon. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files.

‘My dream is to run my ceramic business full-time, however for now I supplement my income working as a studio assistant and hand building tutor for the fabulous James Lemon,’ Mali says. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files.

The perfect base for showcasing her favourite flowers! Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files.

Christina Karras
Thursday 10th March 2022

Mali Taylor says her ceramics practice is more than just her creative outlet – it’s a space to heal.

It was only after the Melbourne based creative was diagnosed with endometriosis, following years of chronic undiagnosed symptoms, that she decided to turn her passion into a small business.

‘It allows me to pursue my love for ceramics in a flexible environment that accommodates for the challenges of living with endometriosis,’ Mali explains.

Mali’s organic pieces are are also heavily inspired by the colours, textures and sculptural forms found in the natural world, in addition to her experiences as a child growing up in Northern New South Wales.

‘Growing up I spent a lot of time in the garden with my family, and swimming with friends in dams where we would cover ourselves head to toe in the soft squishy mud found at the bottom of the dam,’ Mali says.

‘I think these experiences are some of the reasons I love putting my hands in mud every day, there’s just something so wholesome about getting your hands dirty!’ 

‘When I found coiling I was inspired by dendrochronology (the study of tree rings), ripples in water and strata levels exposed in cliff faces and mountain ranges’ Mali adds.’ I love the idea that just like strata levels and dendrochronology map the history of the natural environment, my coils map my inner state of mind.’

Mali’s process is slow, methodical and extremely repetitive, as she hand rolls each tiny coil and gradually stacks coil on top of coil. Impressively, she says this technique has become ‘muscle memory’ for her over the past five years. And – as her practice grows, she’s outgrown her studio! After a year in her current home studio (a spare bedroom in her Brunswick East share house) she’s on the hunt for a new space to call home.

In light of the devastating floods affecting Mali’s home region in NSW, Mali has decided to donate 10 per cent of all sales this month to local community organisation Revive the Northern Rivers, who are currently providing essential aid to the area.

You can shop Mali’s creations here, and keep your eyes peeled to her Instagram for details on her clay-building classes at James Lemon’s studio!

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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