Based near Gympie in Queensland, ceramicist Robyn Stewart splits her work time between her light-filled closed-in verandah studio and a second studio underneath her home where all the messy things are done and where her kilns are located. With a love of pattern, lustre and colour, her approach is a modern take on vintage palettes and designs.
For those who don’t know, how would you describe your work?
I feel there are two arms to my ‘work’ (actually it is loads of fun). The first are the functional pieces which tend to be less complicated and focus on simple form and colour with a touch of lustre.
The second are my jewellery, platters and vases which are often ornately decorated either in abstract patterns or floral motifs with loads of line work in lustre.
Both sides incorporate an overall feel of a modern take on vintage palettes and designs.
How did the Birdy and Clementine journey begin, what is your story? Who or what inspired you to begin in your field?
Birdy and Clementine is a recent reincarnation of my long association with clay. I studied ceramics in the early 90s and then was incredibly lucky to be placed as a teacher at TAFE in central NSW. After relocating to Queensland in 1996 with my young family I dabbled with painting and silversmithing as well as a little clay but it wasn’t until 2015 that I came full circle and returned to clay. Since then, my first creative love has become my full-time job.
What are your current artistic influences and what inspires you to carry on doing what you’re doing?
My current body of work is inspired by memories of my Grandma’s crockery. As a child, I used to go over to her house in Glenelg and she would have this fabulous harlequin dinner set in beautiful pastels and each of us grandkids had their favourite colour which was designated as ours to use for our stay.
Overall though, my influences are many and varying. I love pattern and colour and these can be found everywhere such as in textiles, abstract art, industrial design and repeating patterns in nature. I particularly admire the ceramic works of Carolyn Genders and Linda Styles (both reside in the UK).
I find that having a significant market looming in my foreseeable future helps me have great drive to do my best work and to create enough of it to be worthy of the high standards required to be a part of it. They are my favourite venues to sell at as I get to meet amazing customers with an appreciation for handmade treasures.
The constant quest for discovery and the desire to make beautiful things that are useful is what motivates me to keep creating and developing my craft.
What’s a typical day for Birdy and Clementine?
Well, in actual fact there isn’t really such thing as a typical day, which is one of the benefits of being creative!
The only constant is that I work at something almost every day. Depending upon where I am in my process I could be making glaze and coloured slips, hand building forms and laying down the first layers of colour and pattern, refining shapes, packing and unpacking kilns, glazing, lustreing, sanding and finessing. There are never enough hours in the day! My studio is in my house so there really isn’t division of work and home life. Although often I do huge hours, it’s all a part of my life and (luckily) for the most part it doesn’t feel like work.
Which other designers are you looking forward to seeing when you come to Bowerbird, 5-7 May?
There are so many designers that I am excited to see at Bowerbird. This is not an exhaustive list but: Clare Ishino, Connie Lichti, Fleurs De Nadia, Flock Curiosity Assembly, Frock Me Out, Harper and Edie, Katia Carletti, Marit Hamer, Kindling, Shannon O’Neill, Stephanie James-Manttan, Zinia Kings Things… and many more, I’m sure. There is just going to be so much talent there! I am particularly looking forward to being able to visit fellow ceramic artists and get some of their pieces to add to my growing collection of amazing Australian ceramics.
What is your favourite piece of your own work that will be available at Bowerbird?
My favourite things to make are my earrings. Each one is like a mini abstract piece of art from spontaneously putting down the base colours all the way to the final line work in lustre. I never have a preconceived idea of how they will finish. That process of creative spontaneity keeps me from getting bored and often challenges me as I have to create something from what often looks like nothing impressive until the final step. I get great pleasure seeing my customers match themselves to a unique pair of earrings and knowing that they have the only pair like that in the world.
What advice would you give other aspiring artists and designers?
My advice is to treat your creative life with the importance it deserves. Don’t just ‘fit it in around the busy-ness of life, make it a priority and stay in your own lane. Create what you love not what you think others will love otherwise you are just doing work in the guise of creativity.
Is there anything else you’d like to share with anyone who is reading this and coming down to Bowerbird?
Make your wish list of your favourites that you simply must visit by perusing the Bowerbird website before you attend as it is often so frenetic and overwhelming at the venue that you may go home forgetting to see a designer and that would be a real shame! Also ask designers about their process. You might be very surprised as to what goes into creating the products you see before you.