Studio Visit

The Artist Making ‘Other-Worldly’ Ceramics Inspired By Plants, Coral and Fungi

Kohl Tyler grew up in an isolated, sub-tropical town in Aotearoa New Zealand’s North Island, called Paparoa. Now based in Melbourne, the artist’s greatest inspiration still comes from her formative years growing up in this small New Zealand village, surrounded by nature.

Today, Kohl still spends most of her time — ‘day and night’ — making art, and has cultivated a unique style of ceramics that look like botanical artefacts, drawing inspiration from the natural world’s plants, corals, and fungi!

Christina Karras

Kohl Tyler inside her studio.

Her delicate pieces can take up to months to create.

Each layer is handbuilt.

Kohl says the works are almost like fossilised organic remnants.

Kohl gradually builds her works from the ground up.

Her process also mimics the growth patterns of plants.

Glazes finish off the unique works.

A closer look at her pieces’ paper thin structures.

A line up of Kohl’s creations.

Christina Karras
9th of October 2023

New Zealand-born, Melbourne-based visual artist Kohl Tyler’s ceramics look like organic remnants discovered on ‘an imagined planet’.

Kohl originally studied fine art in Auckland, exploring installation and watercolour painting, which she has continued as part of her practice. It wasn’t until a few years after she moved to Melbourne that she picked up ceramics in 2021, after enrolling in a class at the School of Clay and Art in Brunswick.

Whilst now based in Melbourne, Kohl’s creative inspiration today draws on her childhood experiences growing up in the isolated sub-tropical town of Paparoa, nestled into a valley on the North Island of Aotearoa New Zealand.

‘My mother has always gardened, and my grandmother is a (now-retired) lunar and planetary astronomer,’ Kohl says. They introduced her to the intricate wonders of botanical ecology, which considers questions about ‘our place in the world’ in relation to the vastness of the universe.

These are the ideas Kohl still channels into her otherworldly creations today.

‘I reference plants, corals, and fungi in my work, and view my sculptures almost as remnants of an imagined biologically diverse planet, that appear weathered or fossilised,’ the artist explains.

Kohl’s distinctive works are all hand-built using a mix of slab and coil building. It’s a slow, drawn-out process that can take up to months to complete, as she creates many layers, giving each one time to harden before returning to it the next day after day.

The forms are then glazed with pigments featuring copper, chrome, or cobalt tones, before firing in the kiln at more than 1280 degrees Celsius, to warp the paper-thin clay silhouettes! It’s a unique process that has involved plenty of trial and error! ‘This is the nature of ceramics, you have to be open to heartbreak and failure,’ the artist explains.

‘I’ve definitely pushed things too far before and had works somewhat unravel in the kiln while I was experimenting with various clays, but I’m glad to say that I’ve now found my perfect clay.’

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