Leah started ceramics in high school at the age of 16, when she decided that it was what she wanted to do for her career. She went on to study ceramics in college, worked in a commercial gallery and followed up with a residency for the Fleck Fellowship at the Banff Centre in Canada where she honed in her skills. Leah is now creating ceramics full time and is building her very own studio in her backyard. Here we talk with her about her unique creative process as well as how she decided to become a ceramicist in the first place.
You became interested in ceramics at an early age. Can you tell us about how you decided to pursue ceramics as a career?
The decision to pursue a creative career came at a really young age. When I was six, my parents started taking my younger brother and me on long travels throughout Australia. This initial journey was for a six-month duration. We met many people along the way including young creative women traveling independently who were designers cartoonists painters. They had a profound impact on me who I wanted to be and how I wanted to live my life began to crystallize. This calcified into a passion for ceramics during high school. A preceding principal was passionate about the arts and had funded a really well equipped ceramic studio within a new visual and performing arts centre. We were so lucky to have that it shaped my direction in many ways.
Your sketches are often words in an artist’s journal. How do you translate words into visual objects?
I was trying to explain this to a friend the other day I think it is familiarity with the techniques and material. The words are more a point of reference the “sketching” is happening in three-dimensional space as I make a prototype or test a colour combination I can’t confine the capricious enormity of the ceramic process into a two-dimensional sketch. To know if a teapot is going to pour a glaze develop successfully in the firing a mug feel great to drink from it has to be made. The ineffable nature of the material can’t be determined on paper.
What are you most inspired by now?
Richard England a Maltese architect. My mother’s family is Maltese and immigrated to Australia before she was born. Connection to a place through immigration is complex so I am enjoying thinking more about my ancestry via this interest. The work is reminiscent of another favourite Luis Barragan and like Barragan, England seems to incorporate faith light and a sense of ascendancy filtered through a modernist lens.
Your ceramics style is so unique, the patterns are iconic. What kind of glaze techniques do you use you for your work?
This is a common misconception, the decoration is actually inlaid porcelain. The entire piece decoration and all is made from the same material and sanded back to feel uniform. The decoration is within the clay body not on the surface I am often asked if the decoration will wear off over time I can assure people that there is no way that can ever happen.
What is your biggest lesson you’ve learned from pottery?
Ceramics is a physically demanding practice and the cumulative effects of both repetitive detailed fiddly movements and lifting bulky heavy items will amount to injury if you don’t care for your body. It is easy to undervalue your own physicality in the rush to deadlines but an injury is a quick reminder to keep your body and brain in good working order.
What are you working on now?
I have spent the past months converting a backyard shed into a studio involving an extensive internal renovation and upgrading the power supply to allow for firing. The space will soon be plumbed with a clay trap and have the kiln installed. Thereafter the front of the building will be removed and replaced with a new wall and glass doors. It has been an excruciating process exacerbated by the general discombobulation of being without my daily practice for so long but it will be worth it having my own studio has been a lifelong dream.