Studio Visit

How Ceramic Artist Lucy Tolan Became One Of Melbourne’s Favourite Creatives

Lucy Tolan’s beautifully handcrafted ceramics are instantly recognisable – and they’re constantly appearing on the carefully curated coffee tables, consoles and shelves in many of our home tours!

The local artist has created a signature style that’s completely her own, thanks to the intriguing ‘seams’, textures and bold colours of her one-of-a-kind vessels. And in just few short years, this distinctive ‘visual language’ has quickly made her of Melbourne’s most beloved creatives.

Christina Karras

Ceramic artist Lucy Tolan! Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files

Inside her studio, located in Melbourne’s west. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files

‘When you’re at the studio you feel like you’re in the middle of nowhere, however you’re only 8km from the CBD,’ Lucy says. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files

She uses a mix of hand-building techniques, including slab-building and coiling. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files

‘For my slab-built objects I roll out slabs of clay and press them into moulds I have made from collected textures and rocks, which creates a delicate paper-like quality.’ Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files

One of the defining characteristics of her recent works is the thick slip that connects each piece, which creates a visible seam between the slabs. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files

Dramatic red glazes and cobalt blues have become another signature of her work, but it’s a colour combo she’s been using since high school! Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files


‘The bold colours I use have a graphic-like quality and the repetitive patterns mimic the weft and warp of weaving.’ Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files

She’s been a rising star of our local creative community since she graduated university. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files

And it’s easy to see why her playful pieces are often popping up in our TDF home features! Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files

Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files

In addition to some upcoming exhibitions, Lucy’s also has a new collection launching at Jardan in November, which consists of three vessels in some exciting new colours! Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files

Christina Karras
14th of November 2022

Lucy Tolan’s work is all about repetition. Behind each one of her beautiful ceramics is hours of work, as she creates piece by piece, hand-building layer upon layer. Sometimes, she even builds her vessels just to cut them apart again, and reassemble them in a unique new patchwork, with visible ‘seams’ and tactile imperfections.

It can take her up to three weeks to create just one piece. But her patience and originality is part of what makes her hand-crafted pieces so special – and distinctive.

‘The process is so important as it’s deeply fluid,’ Lucy says. ‘I don’t plan how a vessel will be realised but rather I’m guided by the repetitive rhythm of adding one tile at a time, the form unfolding with each layer.’

It’s no surprise that Lucy’s always been a creative (she still has the first ceramic cup and spoon set she made in prep!) and she’s been building her own ‘visual language’ even before completing her Bachelor of Fine Arts (Ceramics) in 2018. Since then, her work has featured in galleries like Modern Times and Craft Victoria, and has recently become a full-time occupation, shortly after starting work on her upcoming collection with Jardan earlier this year.

‘Now I have a studio space in Maribyrnong at Piecework Projects run by Sachiko Mardon and shared with Anni Hagberg and a number of casual members,’ Lucy adds. ‘It sits at the intersection of parklands and giant bluestone walls, which makes for a curious contrast – similar to some of my references and inspirations.’

Lucy eloquently describes her style as ‘occupying the space where contradicting characteristics meet’. This extends to her differing inspirations, ranging from architecture to textiles, and her use of opposing hues like bold blues against romantic reds.

There’s also an amazing combination of ‘soft and hard’ textures in Lucy’s pieces. Moulds made from textured objects give her work a delicate, paper-like quality, while other dents are the result of Lucy tapping rocks into her creations once they’ve dried firm.

‘Throughout my studies and practice I’ve collected elements that I feel so drawn to, whether it be colour, texture or form and begun combining them with one another,’ she explains. ‘It’s been a process of following my preferences and intuition to create objects that I love. It’s so gratifying to know others love them too, and I’m so delighted to share my visual language with the world.’

Her plan for the summer is to experiment with different materials and large-scale objects, re-imagining the signature style we’ve come to know and love in new ways. We can’t wait to see what she does next!

Shop Lucy Tolan’s online store here.

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