Vessels reminiscent of decadent desserts, colourful hues reflective of playful nostalgia, and intricate detail that baffles even the most seasoned art aficionados — all in the the realm of ceramic work.
Steph Woods is a Meanjin-based ceramicist inspired by the unconventional and out of the ordinary. Steph began her journey with stoneware after feeling its pull while studying her Bachelor of Fine Arts. Since then, her works have appeared in exhibitions all around the world, including Paris’ 1000 Vases Exhibitions and Montreal’s SSENSE Exhibition.
Our team behind Double Double has always been inspired by all things art, especially when it comes from makers so close to home. We sat down with Steph to chat about her designs and creative process.
Can you tell us how you got into pottery and ceramics? Was it something that started as a hobby and grew into a passion? What studio did you start your journey at?
I started creating ceramics for an assessment when I was doing my Fine Arts Bachelor’s degree. I gravitated towards the craft instantly, and with no guidance and little experience using the material, I dove straight into it. My first creation was a crazy, vibrant vessel with lots of texture covering it. I’m quite proud of this piece and use it as inspiration to this day. As for my workspace, I’ve always created art from my home studio. This works best as I usually work odd and long hours to keep up with the drying rate of my pieces.
We’ve never seen anything like your ceramics. Where do you get your design inspiration from?
I take inspiration from things well outside of the medium like: glass art, food, and editorial high fashion. My aim is to create works that disguise the clay and make the viewer question what material my pieces are made from. I like the challenge of trying to surprise the viewer while pushing the boundaries of the material that I’m working with.
What’s your usual creative process?
I like to come up with a plan before I get my hands dirty. I’ll sketch up one piece that I’m excited about and form an entire collection around it. I’ll have an idea of glaze colours before I start making the vessels, but they regularly change during the final stages. Colours are important as they give my pieces their personality. Once I’ve finalised my ideas, I start creating the pieces using a coiling technique and a small selection of tools that cut and smooth the clay. The process of making a piece is extremely slow, and it can take me as long as seven hours to make just one vessel. I then wait several days for it to dry before glazing and firing it. It’s not quick by any means, but it’s rewarding in the end.
Did you start your journey with a medium other than clay?
When I did a Bachelor of Fine Arts at the Queensland University of Technology, we were encouraged to use more alternative mediums to create installations. During this exploration into material, I enjoyed working with both fabric and digital art. But once I started using clay in my second year, I never looked back!
Is there another medium, form, or design that you’d like to experiment with in the future?
I would love to experiment with glass in the future — maybe even to decorate my ceramics! After all, pottery glaze is actually just a glass coating for ceramics. It’d be very interesting to experiment with slumping glass on ceramics in the kiln.
Do you have any exciting exhibitions coming up?
In September my work will be exhibited in a show called ‘Manifest’ at Boom Gallery, alongside four other amazing ceramic artists. I also have another exhibition coming up with Michael Reid Gallery in November.
What can we expect to see from you in the future?
You can expect my practice to always evolve as I explore new colours, forms, and mediums. I’m constantly coming up with new ideas to test the limits of clay. I hope to regularly show in exhibitions and showrooms both around Australia and internationally.
What’s your favourite song/s to get down too while you’re in your studio?
I occasionally have lo-fi music playing in the background; however, weirdly enough, I really enjoy listening to horror movies. I say ‘listening’ because most of the time I can’t focus on a screen while making. I’ve always enjoyed the horror genre, but I find it especially easy to listen to when making because the storylines are always straight-forward. I think that the adrenaline from jump scares helps with productivity too!