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Q&A: Eric Clews

Strawberry or chocolate? No matter what side you are on, a lunch time flavoured milk from the tuckshop sits firmly in the memory banks of Brissy kids.  While we might shiver, laugh or dote over the memories forged as little rascals, we cannot argue they are what shape us. For local artist, Eric Clews it was these youthful moments that inspired their contribution to Commune. Sitting in all its pink glory among 257 ceramic works, we sat down with Eric to discover the story behind this heartfelt artwork.

Your work is a feast for the eyes! What inspired Childhood Memories?

It’s been over 10 years since I last bought an oak milk from the tuckshop. Memories of school have since blurred into $2 noodle cups, occasional embarrassing moments, hilarious antics, and words since forgotten that shaped who I am today. But I still love a good choccy or strawberry milk. Some things never change.

How did you land on the famous Oak Milk shape?

I had only just begun learning more about hand building, and during hard slab week in class, I made a milk carton and painted it to look like a strawberry flavoured milk. I was so pleased with how it turned out I decided my next hyperfocus would be making milk cartons from hard slabs. As I was planning how to construct an open-mouthed carton, I recalled the little square 300ml flavoured milks you could buy from the school tuckshop and it just seemed like the perfect thing to make and submit for this exhibition.

Eric Clews, Childhood Memories 2023 for Clay: Collected Ceramics. Photo: MoB.
How did you discover your love for ceramics?

It’s not a fun story, but I took my first ceramic workshop in January 2022 after being gifted a voucher for Christmas. I really enjoyed learning to throw on the wheel and wanted to learn more, but I had to prioritise running my business so I couldn’t put as much time and effort into ceramics as I had wished. When the February 2022 floods, I lost most of my personal and business possessions and had to stay in temporary accommodation. Since I couldn’t continue running my business while living in a studio apartment, I dove headfirst into ceramics; attending weekly classes and learning as much as I could as fast as I could. It helped distract me and kept my mental health in check. I’m still not back in my own home but having ceramics as a constant in my life has been nothing but a positive.

Would you say you are a professional ceramicist?

I would classify myself primarily as a maker. I’ve run my own business making soaps and other body products for the past four years, which is basically just a hobby that also happens to be self-sustaining financially.  I have recently begun to call myself an artist and feel like it is genuinely a fitting title. I’m a hobbyist; I love learning new art forms, and am particularly enjoying crochet, yarn dyeing, and ceramics at the moment. I can’t seem to find just one thing and stick to it for too long, but that’s not really a bad thing, is it?

Eric Clews in their studio.  Image courtesy the artist.

See the work of hundreds of Brisbane’s ceramic artists by visiting Commune at Museum of Brisbane.


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