When Edmund de Waal released The Pot Book, fans gathering at the growing intersection of craft and art were rewarded. A compendium of pots from all periods, The Pot Book pairs decorative porcelain vases with simple, cheaply-manufactured plates for use in the home, each given the same artistic weighting and merit. It’s a visual reflection of de Waal’s assertion that, ‘in more recent times clay has been used not just by artisans and potters, but also by artists, designers and architects.’
I’ve always been drawn to ceramic wares. A long-time collector of clay vessels and bowls, I’ve always brought them into my home with the view that they were art pieces (noting things like the type of clay used, the firing process, the potters history). Many of these ceramic works are intended to be both domestic vessels –to have a use – and also to occupy a space in my home beyond their functionality. Domestic wares and the home domain are of late being more comprehensively reconsidered as artistic contributors, making a move away from pure utility, decoration or craft.
It’s impossible to ignore the rise in, and prolificacy of, blogs, retailers and publications devoted to hand-made interior decoration and handcrafted homewares. The Design Files, Apartamento, Finders Keepers, and so on. The compulsion to decorate our interior and personal spaces with handcrafted pieces has been given bonus currency; with the artisanal now being once again ticketed as art. Re-approaching and curating our living spaces, sharing them on social media, reading about them online, all reveals an obsession with perfecting our surrounds. In tandem with this movement is the gallery space.
A couple of years ago, Melbourne-based gallery Utopian Slumps presented artists’ works in the form of floor rugs in the group show, ‘In the Gardens’, curated by Misha Hollenbach. At AS gallery in Sydney, local artist Ben Barretto moved away from his usual-practiced medium of paint on canvas and presented woven wall-hangings for his show entitled ‘Weaves, Painting Paintings’. While the artists’ intention in each of these shows wasn’t to reference or re-contextualise the rug or a weaving beyond the domestic domain, it’s curious that the reference to domestic space, and a raising of the domestic object above its functionality, was present.
A current group show at Craft Victoria, ‘Magic Mountain’, follows this gaze focused on the domestic space, considering the ‘notion of spacial [sic] and interior design, domestic decoration and the psychology behind creating personal or private space.’ Curated by Debbie Pryor, ‘Magic Mountain’ allows each artist to explore the nature of home, presented through a series of individually decorated huts. Of note, multi-medium artists Sarah CrowEST and Terry Williams present work that, while being a fantastical representation of domestic spaces, are significant in their interpretation of the home arena being considered as a creative, artistic space.
While there’s much left of the skepticism that dogs craft, a turning to the domestic space as a creative and legitimate arena for art means my small army of earthenware can sit secure on the shelf – their artistic currency is being fired up.
Belle Place is a Killings columnist and the Publishing Coordinator for Affirm Press. She lives and writes from Melbourne.