When one door closes, another door opens. This was the case for Melbourne-based artist Clare Hermon after she was forced to take a step back from her laborious work crafting timber furniture, when she became pregnant a few years ago.
Growing up in Northern England, she spent her early 20s learning the historic method of Welsh oak barn construction, which involves using mostly hand tools, lots of chisel work and fine joinery.
‘The master carpenter I worked with taught me how to use a lathe, carve a spoon, mill tree trunks, and construct a barn without any power tools. He taught me the fundamentals of working with timber and ignited my love of carving,’ Clare says.
But spending most of her childhood close to the hometown of prolific English ceramicist Barbara Hepworth, Clare was also surrounded by her sculptures. Ceramics was a medium she’d ‘always wanted to learn’, so she seized the opportunity to experiment while she was pregnant – and then later, while her newborn Winnie was sleeping. Before long she had established a studio, and started selling her pieces under the name Hermon Blue.
The Silhouette Vessel was the very first piece Clare ever made with clay. Its smooth, organic shapes set the tone for the rest of her enchanting creations – from the Ritual Candelabra’s ‘elegant, useful and almost unnoticeable’ design to her instantly recognisable Neptune Sticks. Now that Winnie is three years old, Clare says she’s been enjoying working with timber again for furniture and lighting, blending her expertise with her newfound love of ceramics.
Starting Hermon Blue around 2020, Clare says it was ‘difficult to master some techniques’ without a teacher or any classes running at the time. That was, until she moved to Eltham.
‘I knew Eltham had a great community of master ceramicists, so I thought if I moved there, I might come across some,’ some Clare explains. ‘And I did! Within a few weeks of working, Judith Roberts, who was an inspirational ceramicist in the 1970s, came over to offer me some tips!’
Clare’s beautiful 1960s house also serves as the idyllic backdrop for her practice – she does her slip-casting and woodwork from the carport, while the basement studio, featuring timber beams and slate floors, is where she designs, hand-builds her ceramics and assembles her lighting.
‘It really is a perfect house for an artist,’ Clare adds. ‘I’m unsure of the history of the house, but I like to believe it was designed with an artist in mind.’