Ceramicist Jill Symes has established herself as a maker of substance. Her signature slab constructions feature bold mark-making, effortless technique and strong colour combinations that vibrate with the kind of confidence that only comes from years dedicated to perfecting your craft. This year Symes is presenting a new body of work inspired by the Australian landscape entitle FRAGMENTS OF LANDSCAPE, at The Gallery BACC Brighton, and opening her doors to the public as part of this years Open Studio Program August 19 -20. We spoke to Jill about the significance of the handmade, her own making environment and got her top picks for this years Craft Cubed festival. 

What’s the significance of the handmade to you?

The handmade object offers direct contact with the maker with the knowledge that time has been spent in the creation of this object that I have before me.
To me it also means self-sufficiency in a world of technology, where basic artisan skills are easily lost to technology. From my own experience as a potter, the process of making offers a form of meditation in the creating and making, and is technically challenging in the making and finishing processes required for a satisfactory outcome.

What is your earliest craft memory?

My earliest memory is of my mother and father making meaningful toys which were fun, inventively designed and made mostly from found materials, such as scraps of builder’s wood and paint from my father’s shed, and cloth from my mother’s handmade clothes.

What is your philosophy or motto when it comes to creativity?

We are all creative, it’s a matter of finding the medium that “turns you on”. Discovering clay changed my life. It offered a myriad of paths to explore my own creativity, from experimental periods of digging and using my own clay, to building kilns, then acquiring the technical skills required to make something in clay according to my vision.

Where do you go in Melbourne for inspiration?

Inspiration is everywhere - mostly in nature. I find inspiration in the birds, animals and plants in my garden; the seasons; my urban seaside surroundings and activities; my local beach in differing weathers; meditative swimming in the sea. Also the discussion of ideas in any media I find inspiring.

What are you reading OR listening to at the moment?

The Dalai Lama’s Cat by David Michie, which is about the REALLY important things in life - written from the cat’s point of view. It’s lots of laughs - a chapter or two in the morning gets my day off to a good start.

How would you describe your studio or making environment?

A retreat at the bottom of my garden that lures me to ideas, productivity (on a good day) and (importantly) solace. It’s ambiance is provided by good natural light, Radio National (current
affairs and some great music) and a wood fired heater on cold days.

What other Craft Cubed events are you excited about? 

I’m excited about my open studio days on 19 and 20 August as I love the sense of crafting in the community that is created when people can see behind closed doors in a working pottery, with the opportunity to get the “feeling of clay” for themselves, and see the processes involved in making hand-built pottery.