Kim Wallace was born and raised in a small town in the Netherlands, but has been calling Australia home for more than a decade, since she came her on a backpacking trip and fell in love with an Aussie boy (now her husband), and our stunning natural environment. A graphic designer by profession she started making ceramics seven years ago, and now spends her days elbow deep in mud in her studio on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast.
What’s a typical day in the life of Kim Wallace, ceramicist?
Hectic! Running a home-based business alongside raising two little ones is chaotic to say the least. I get woken up (too early!) by the little ones and after breakfast the day is divided into work time by tag-teaming my husband in looking after the kids.
When I’m in the studio it’s all about organising orders, work to be made, sponging, glazing, colouring, loading kilns, unloading kilns, etc etc. I have an amazing studio assistant Nikki who has been integral to keeping my business running and also growing it.
Tell us about your studio and the surrounding environment. How does working surrounded by nature influence your creative work?
My studio is set high alongside our home and overlooks the rainforest with Noosa and the ocean in the distance. It’s a lovely spot and the studio oozes character, having previously being a painter’s studio with splatter all over the timber floors.
After moving to the Sunshine Coast I designed my Ebb Tide range, which is inspired by our surroundings here on the coast. Organic shapes, natural colours and glazes, bright blues and gorgeous greens reflecting the ocean and rainforest around us, the range evolved quite naturally by gaining inspiration on our beach trips and daily walks.
All of your work is made by hand. What does that involve? And how messy does it get ☺?
Most of our work is made using a technique called handbuilding, where slabs of clay are rolled out, then cut and shaped, either by hand or using a mould. Pieces are then left to dry and in some cases decorated with a hand-carved pattern. Colour and glazes are all brushed on by hand.
The other process we use is slipcasting, where all the leftover bits of clay from the handbuilding process are turned into a liquid clay which is poured into plaster moulds to create a different series of work (like deeper bowls, bottles and cups) that wouldn’t have the same outcome being handbuilt. This process is rather messy with spillage, liquid clay being poured in and out of buckets and through sieves and generally ending up all over the floor, on our aprons and in our hair. Perhaps we just don’t quite have our technique worked out properly but it’s worth the results!
You dabbled in working with clay when you were younger. How useful has this previous experience proven in giving you the confidence and skills to start your own range?
I think it gave me enough confidence to buy that first bag of clay again and just start making. I’ve certainly had to brush up on skills and even today there is a lot of trial and error involved. I quickly learnt that the staff at my local pottery supply store, where I also used to get my work fired before purchasing my first kiln, were my greatest friends when it came to advice, tips when things went wrong, or could simply be done just a little better or more efficiently. I’m very grateful to everyone that has played a part in getting me where I am today.
What do you love about ceramics as an art form, and whose work do you admire?
I love that something is created out of mud, with the ceramicist’s hands, into a unique object with so much character and soul. There are so many ceramicists that I admire, it would be hard to name them all. I love Instagram for being able to keep up with fellow ceramicists, it’s very inspiring to be able to look into their studios and creative processes. I’m certainly looking forward to meeting some and adding a few more pieces to my collection at the Bowerbird markets this weekend!
If you had to sum up the essence of your own work – Kim Wallace ceramics – in just three words, what would they be?
Organic, handmade, contemporary
Tell us about your Vintage Lace collection. What inspired it, what are the vintage patterns you are using, what do the patterns mean to you, and how has the range been received?
My Vintage Lace collection was my first collection when starting my ceramics business. It all started with a box full of beautifully crafted doilies that I discovered tucked away in a corner at St Vinnies — they had been given away due to some discolouration, yet had such lovely patterns. I started to think of ways I could reuse these little works of art and incorporate them into modern, decorative and functional pieces, revamping them to highlight the beauty of their intricate patterns and texture.
Over time I have collected doilies from different treasure hunts and friends have also given some to me. I’m forever on the look out for ‘that’ perfect doily! My customers really love the range and the process behind it. I think there is something beautiful and lovely about a handcrafted doily (I can just imagine the person crocheting each stitch by hand), but we wouldn’t really know what to do with the doily itself anymore. My pieces eternalize the gorgeous patterns and the impression into the clay seems the perfect medium to be able to enjoy the craft of lace doilies all over again. I recently relaunched the collection with new designs and patterns, aimed at presenting cakes and desserts as I feel these are the perfect match for this range.
What new collections are you currently working on?
I have a lot of new pieces that I am working on, all tying in with my current collections. I’m excited to launch my new range of vintage bottle bud vases, made using moulds cast from vintage jars and bottles that I have collected over the years. New heart garlands to complement the Vintage Lace collection as well as natural coloured serving boards with lace impression and partial white glaze. And my new ever-green ceramic cacti! Perfect for black-thumbs like me… 😉
What can visitors to Bowerbird expect to find at your stall, and what are you looking forward to for your trip to Adelaide?
All of the new pieces mentioned above, my Vintage Lace collection with coloured pieces re-introduced, lots of gorgeous pieces in the Ebb Tide collection and my collaborative range with artist Renée Treml, featuring a range of bowls and gift tags with native Australian animals (illustrated by Renée) impressed into the clay.
I’ve never been to Adelaide and whilst there won’t be a lot of time for sight-seeing, I’m looking forward to a fabulous weekend of meeting customers and followers, checking out other designer’s stalls, hanging out with my dear friends and perhaps even a little sleep-in!