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Interview with Valerie Schönjahn

Updated: Feb 18

By Janet Hummerston

November 2023

What was your first clay experience?

My first adult exposure to the medium was in 2014. We were living in Melbourne, and there were classes running at the Abbotsford Convent, by Cone 11 ceramics. I was excited about the fact that the forms I visualized in my head would quickly materialise underneath my hands. To me it was a very liberating experience.


Where do you gain you inspirations from?

Much of my inspiration comes from the natural objects I find on the ground. When I pick up these objects my fingers seem to absorb their form and textures. Outside of this, thinking on relationships, ideas of balance, co-dependency, and practical behaviours in nature, are extremely fascinating to me.

What is your studio like?  

As I work from home, and have a still somewhat younger family, my studio morphs into all the spaces of the house that are  currently not used by the other family members. Our renovations are progressing slowly. I look forward to a studio  that is fit for purpose, in the shed, in the not-too-distant future. 

Do you see yourself as a Ceramic Artist or a Craftsperson?  

I see myself as an artist. Porcelain is this wonderful and  seductive medium, that I am often drawn to, but I enjoy  exploring things. I have a curious personality by nature and enjoy a range of different materials and methods within my art  practice.

Having recently had a very successful exhibition, ESSENCE, at Perth Studio Potters, do you think the process of ‘the  exhibition’ is the part of your creation of the work that  defines an endpoint or a beginning? 

So far, I have had a variety of different experiences  regarding exhibitions. In some cases, the exhibition has  marked the end point. Creating an umbrella under which to show and dissect my previous thinking. In other cases, the exhibition has been the beginning, a  catalyst idea from which work has been made, specifically with  that intent. I think both approaches are valid, and I have enjoyed both. Exhibitions are always a lot of work. It is the behind-the-scenes things, the high energy of the opening night and putting oneself in the public realm, that I find particularly challenging. Producing the work is the wonderful bit.   

Are you aiming for a National and/or international market?  

I think it is interesting to look outside of WA; for inspiration, input, and also to show work. It is wonderful to have the opportunity to share local stories with other communities, be those over east or overseas. 


What do you see as the function of Ceramics and the Ceramic Artist/Craftsperson in Australian society?  

Our roles as Artist and Ceramicists in Australia are individual and diverse. I think as a collective our role is to  be a supportive and inclusive community. I have benefited so much from the guidance of some very generous and knowledgeable mentors. Helping me to grow as an artist as well also as a  person. So, I think I attribute our success as a community to  the sharing of knowledge, supporting, and lifting each other up. To push our boundaries so that we may extend as creatives and people.

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