“I am a terrible perfectionist and find ceramics a lesson in patience and letting go. I have learned to embrace the unique quirkiness that is “hand made” without sacrificing the quality.”
In a few words, describe yourself and your practice.
I am a graphic designer by profession and a maker of things by nature. The name I work under: Vanessa Bean is a combination of my given name and my childhood nickname. I think my ceramics fit somewhere between art & design. I use a simple, decorative and graphic approach to my pieces. I also crochet and am always looking for ways to combine crochet and ceramics. I love the discipline of design & the freedom of craft and both sides come together in my work. I like to create objects that are interactive, where the owner shares in the creativity of the piece and is included in the process. I'm driven to make things that make me happy and hope that in doing so I bring a little joy into people’s homes and make them smile.
When did you start your practice?
I discovered ceramics around 5 years ago after doing a community college evening course in porcelain jewelry...and have been experimenting with different techniques ever since.
WHAT MAKES YOUR WORK UNIQUE?
Me. I am an optimistic person and
I make what makes me happy. I also think my background in graphic design means I approach ceramics from a slightly different angle.
WHAT IS THE MOST USEFUL TIP OR ADVICE YOU'VE EVER BEEN GIVEN?
Don't give up.
How do you start your process?
I have always loved figurative sculpture, so I have a tendency to put a face on most of the things I make and give everyday objects a human quality. As well as making my current range for my Etsy shop,
I try to experiment with new ideas. I recently did a course in clay
hand-building which challenged me to create things in different ways. I generally start with something I feel a need for in my own
home and it develops from there.
How does where you live affect your work?
I live in Sydney, near the beach with my husband and three boys. I think it’s not so much the place that influences my work because I’m sure I would be making the same things if I lived somewhere else. I think it is more about being happy where I live which comes through in my work.
I believe in quality craftsmanship, making things the best that I can and representing my products honestly and transparently.
Is your practice how you support yourself? If not, what else are you working on to do so?
At first I balanced making ceramics with graphic design projects but in the last year, I decided to focus completely on ceramics. After 20 odd years of working as a graphic designer I was ready for a change in direction and I couldn’t be happier. I think my experience in graphics has really influenced what I make and how I make it and I am always drawing on those skills.
What are some challenges you're facing in your practice?
Making ceramics can be a dicey business, any number of things (often unexplainable) can go wrong in the kiln so I often have to make extras to allow for any mishaps. I am a terrible perfectionist and find ceramics a lesson in patience and letting go. I have learned to embrace the unique quirkiness that is “hand made” without sacrificing the quality.
WHO (OR WHAT) INSPIRES YOU?
Travel and visiting galleries. I read a lot too. I use a lot of hand painted patterning in my work so I often look to the natural world for inspiration.
Are you comfortable sharing all aspects of your process? if not, why?
I am really lucky to have studio space in a pottery collective in Sydney. We share resources, knowledge, techniques and inspiration. We also have exhibitions together and collaborate. I am also very happy to share what I have learned and I owe my knowledge mostly to the generosity of others.
If you were to share one piece of advice with those who aspire to do what you do, what would it be?
Make what you love. Don’t try to make only what will sell. Also experiment and challenge yourself and don’t give up when you have a bad day. I can have days in the studio when nothing works and things fail. Sometimes it’s best to go home when that happens and try again the next day. I think all creative people question their abilities on a regular basis. It’s the nature of being an artist. Also great things often come out of mistakes so be prepared to fail.
HOW WOULD YOUR AUDIENCE DESCRIBE YOU?
I’ve had some lovely feedback from people who have bought my work and “happy” and “joyful” are the words most commonly used.
How has your practice changed over time? Where do you see it going?
I started off small, trying things out slowly and making ceramics really more for fun. Gradually, I have honed my skills and focused on what I really like to make and my business has grown. I enjoy all aspects of the creative process: making the piece, styling and photographing, listing it, packaging and sending it. I believe in quality craftsmanship, making things the best that I can and representing my products honestly and transparently. I just want to keep on doing what I do but I do recognize that in order to increase my production and grow the business, I will have to get some help with parts of the process. I do find that difficult, being a control freak, delegating tasks to someone else will be a challenge for me.
What are you currently working on?
Right now I am concentrating on keeping my Etsy shop stocked, I can’t seem to make fast enough. Otherwise, I always have a list of personal projects to try out.