Report by Bernard Kerr
The Pottery Expo is a major ceramics event held in Warrandyte, Melbourne, during the last weekend in February. Every year international or interstate ceramic artists feature as special guests in order to create diversity and special interest for Expo visitors and to exchange knowledge and network with Victorian ceramic artists. In the past, guests have included groups from France and the UK as well as Australian State representations from Queensland and Tasmania. This year CAAWA was invited to organize a selection of WA potter’s work that represented a range of Western Australian ceramic practices. The invitation was not only to exhibit work but included encouragement and sharing of information about the upcoming Australian Ceramics Triennale to be held in Fremantle in 2025.
The Expo has been running for 23 years. It is the brainchild of Jane Annois, a Melbourne potter who was inspired by the Potter’s Markets she had seen throughout France. A fluent French speaker, Jane has participated in these events and visited when taking pottery tours there.
The town of Warrandyte has a history as a ceramics centre and is situated in a beautiful semi-rural location on the upper reaches of the Yarra River but is only 25 kilometres from the Melbourne city centre.
The Pottery Expo has built a considerable following and reputation and attracts visitors Australia-wide. It’s a busy weekend and showcases the work of over 90 exhibiting ceramic artists. It also includes clay activities and demonstrations, an educational component and presentations and discussions. The outdoor festive atmosphere also includes live music and food. Average attendance at this event is in the order of 10,000 people generating approximately $350,000.00 in sales.
The Pottery Expo also provides exposure to galleries, magazines, curators, private commissions and more. It is a fun-filled social weekend, and in the usually warm summer weather, one can actually swim in the clean upper reaches of the flowing Yarra River. Basically, this is Potter’s heaven!
CAAWA’s invitation arrived in November 2022, too short notice to organize an expression of interest and select a suitable group of artists and subsequently organize all the attendant details. Therefore, the committee decided to select 11 of the ceramic artists and potters who were special mentions and awards at the annual CAAWA selective exhibition held in October this year, judged by Warrick Palmateer. That way, we knew we could present high-quality works and be able to fulfil the paperwork, promotional material and logistics of sending work across the Nullabor in time for the event.
Of the 13 artists that Warrick identified, 11 accepted the invitation. They were: Sandra Black, Felicity Bodycoat, Robbie Kerr, Alison Brown, Ian Dowling, Bernard Kerr, Lyn Nixon, Judith Paisley, Lee Woodcock and Janelle Peterson. In addition, Janet Hummerston won the People’s Choice award and was also included. Of these, Lyn Nixon, Felicity Bodycoat, Judith Paisley, Robbie Kerr and myself attended and ran the CAAWA stall.
The invitation was a unique opportunity to showcase a diversity of Western Australian Ceramic practices on the eastern seaboard. We had a fun time, and our work was noticeably different from the works from Victoria and New South Wales. We were allocated a pavilion at the entrance to the festival, so we got to meet many people as they arrived. We had fun setting up on the very uneven ground the night before and rostered manning the stall over the two days.
I was able to present an illustrated talk about the artists and their work and talk about our plans for WEDGE, the Australian Ceramics Triennale, to be held in Fremantle in 2025.
Over the weekend, there were over six thousand dollars worth of sales, and every artist sold work. Despite the sales, the best part of the event was the connection with other ceramic artists and the stimulation gleaned from observing so many styles and approaches to the medium as well as selling WA.
Any individual or group can apply for a stall at Warrandyte, and it would be fabulous if individuals or a group from CAAWA continued to show Western Australian ceramics in the future. Those of us who attended would be happy to help anyone put forward a proposal if some of you wish to participate in the future.