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Q&A: Ronelle Clarke

17 AUGUST 2021

Ceramics have been an integral part of Ronelle Clarke’s life; from running workshops in Greece to teaching art and ceramics for over 30 years in Brisbane. Ronelle sure knows her way around a potter’s wheel!

We caught up with Ronelle to find out more about her practice and how it was influenced by the Brisbane creative community. See the complete Ronelle Clarke collection online at MoB Shop.

You have a long history of working with ceramics in Brisbane, how did your journey with clay come about?

I have been involved with clay and making since the 1970s when I first studied Art and Ceramics at RMIT in Melbourne. My long involvement in this medium has included running a workshop in Greece in the late 70s and early 80s, and teaching Art and Ceramics for over 30 years at TAFE  in both Brisbane and Townsville. During my teaching years, I continued with my own practice and exhibited regularly within Queensland.

Tell us about your creative process? Which part do you enjoy the most?

I enjoy using a range of processes including throwing, slipcasting and handbuilding choosing the process I feel will best suit the forms I wish to make. In recent years I have concentrated on domestic functional ware using the white surface as a three-dimensional canvas for my decorative patterns and brushwork. Working on the surface of the clay is probably my favourite part as it’s when you see your vision of form and surface coming together. I recycle all my clay turnings and offcuts into casting slip and look to making my studio practice as sustainable as possible. I have methods of stacking my kiln, so no space is wasted and wastewater is also either recycled or used on the garden.

Ronelle Clarke at MoB Shop
Ronelle Clarke at MoB Shop.
We adore the bold and structured patterns that have become a staple in your works, what inspiration do you draw from?

I use photos of landscape, particularly images of our coastal environment as a starting point for image and mark making. Mid-century modern design is also an influence, particularly architecture and fabric design. These images are then used as a starting point for sketching patterns and designs which I simplify into colour, lines, dots and dashes. I always work with a good quality sketch book pasting photos and sketching designs. One sketch is usually the starting point for another as my designs warp and evolve. All my marks are applied free hand with a brush, and I have some favourite brushes. My designs evolve further as they are applied to the clay surface with a steady hand and the two dimensional design becomes a three dimensional pattern.

You have strong a background teaching ceramics in Brisbane. How has the Brisbane creative community influenced your practice?

You learn a lot from teaching others and there are some very talented people out there. Over my long teaching career, I taught ceramics at both Diploma and Advanced Diploma levels and have had the pleasure of keeping in touch with students who have gone on to take leading roles in Australian Ceramics today. I have also had some wonderful colleagues each with their own knowledge and distinct ways of working. You constantly learn and are influenced by those around you. Since retiring from teaching, I have continued to have close ties to others within the Brisbane art and ceramics community which proves to be a constant source of interest and support.

Ronelle Clarke ceramics
Ronelle Clarke ceramics.
Over the years, has your practice changed? What exciting findings have you discovered along the way?

My practice has certainly changed over the years. Having moved from stoneware to earthenware to midfire temperatures and from functional ware to sculptural forms and back again. Glazes, carving and brushwork have all featured at different times. There is always so much to explore and new materials come on the market all the time. Yet some influences stay constant and are returned to over and over again in different forms. My love of the sea and the coastal environment, a use of colour and pattern, and at times narrative work linking place and family connections seem to all resurface at different times.

Do you have any exciting projects coming up? Where do you see your practice leading in the future?

At present I am happy working in my home studio producing decorative functional ware. However, I have recently started making sketches for a range of sculptural wall and floor pieces based on images connected to the sea, so maybe these will evolve into an exhibition of sculptural work in the near future.


Ronelle Clarke opening kiln
Ronelle Clarke opening kiln. Courtesy Ronelle Clarke.

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