Marrying into a family of potters, it’d be hard not to be influenced with dreams of working with clay. Likewise, residing in the peaceful surrounds of NSW’s Sunshine Coast it’s almost a given to let nature take it’s due course as an influence over creative work. It’s these paths that have led to the natural and minimal ceramics of Elke Lucas.
With the aim of creating simple, natural and tactile wares, Elke’s handiwork results in ceramics that can, and should, be both used and treasured in everyday life. Walks among the surrounding bush lands result in nature making its way into her work too, by way of the native flora collected.
Tell us about your practice and what you do?
“Elke Lucas Ceramics is my ceramics studio where I produce functional porcelain tableware. My work is either thrown on a potters wheel or slab built and hand-shaped. My heart is to produce delicate functional ceramics with minimal decoration that will be a beautiful addition to any home.”
What is your background, and what led to the start of your ceramics brand?
“My professional background is in architectural drawing and environmental studies, but my ceramics journey started when I married into a family of potters and started working as a studio potter on the North Devon Coast in the UK. We made slip decorated earthenware inspired by the pottery tradition in that area. I always felt drawn to the translucency of porcelain however and once we moved to Australia in 2009 I finally got a chance to experiment with that clay.”
What does a typical week involve?
“My working week varies so much depending on what work happened the previous week. Ceramics is a slow process with many steps involved starting from preparing the clay by working it, a bit like dough, to get the clay particles plastic and workable. After that the lump of clay gets weighed to ensure fairly consistent sizing of the pots when throwing them on the potters wheel. Once I get onto the wheel I feel in my element – it’s a beautiful task just being absorbed in feeling the clay move and shape under my hands.
“Porcelain is a silky soft clay and its such a pleasure to work with it. Shaping the pots doesn’t allow for wandering minds, it keeps you right there in the moment just focused on the one thing – creating a pleasing shape and form and getting the best from the material you use. Each piece is individual even if I try and repeat the shapes and forms to keep some continuity; each piece still seems to have its own fingermark on it. Once shaped on the wheel the piece needs to dry to a leather hard stage where it then goes back onto the potters wheel to shave away any excess clay and in case of bowls to shape a foot at the bottom of the bowl.
“After that the pot needs to fully dry before it can be decorated and bisque fired to a medium temperature to harden the pots ready for glazing. Each piece is handled many, many times and each process takes its time and cannot be hurried. The final stage is packing the kiln for the glaze firing which reaches 1280°C. There is a sense of excitement before opening the kiln and it feels a bit like Christmas morning every time…. Sometimes there a squeals of delight and sometimes not.”
Tell us about your style and the ethos behind your work?
“Very early on in my pottery career I came across the late Dame Lucie Rie’s ceramics, which left a strong impression on me. Her work was refined and incredibly modern for her time. Her influence, alongside Japanese pottery, have brought me to a place where I like to produce ceramics with minimal decoration. I aim to achieve a natural, quiet aesthetic which when combined with the delicate and sometimes translucent quality of the clay, gives my ceramic a timeless yet modern quality and look that I really love. I like to think of people purchasing my work and treasuring and using it daily for a very long time to come!”
What do you love about the process, and what you do?
“Ceramics is such a versatile medium that gives endless creative possibilities and it’s a never-ending learning process. It can be unpredictable with big highs and lows due to the many things that can effect the outcome of each piece (clay consistency, weather, kiln temperament, raw materials, etc.) and that is all part of the excitement of seeing each piece as an individual with it’s own feel, mark and identity. Some of the process is almost meditative and can be quite therapeutic whilst others can be physically and mentally demanding at times. There are so many steps involved that no day ever looks quite the same as another one, which keeps it all interesting and creative.”
What are some of the things that inspire you in the work you do?
“I mentioned some of the direct inspirations before – Japanese pottery and the work of Lucie Rie, but for creating my own pieces overall I always feel like inspiration comes from every day life. Walks through the bush and along the beach, shapes, patterns and colourings of leaves, trees, sand, seashells, sky and sea; talks with friends, some word or impression picked up from a conversation I had with someone – all that and more contributes to inspiration that then gets outworked in some shape or form.”
What’s next for Elke Lucas Ceramics?
“Over the last year I’ve been really busy building up my online shop and some stockists throughout Australia. Seven months ago I opened a little gallery store called Coastal Artisans in Peregian Beach with my business partner Brenda Marshall where we’ve created a beautiful peaceful space showcasing incredible artisans work from around Australia. Of course my own work is represented as well as Brenda’s and I’m hoping it will give me an outlet for my usual ranges as well as for some one-off pieces of mine. I’ll continue to just do what I love and see where my ideas and experiments will take me in the future.”
To view more of Elke’s work visit www.elkelucasceramics.com.
Photos: Lillie Thompson // Words: Emma Bowen