In today’s Sweet Gigs feature, we're delighted to introduce you to Phillip Island artist Karen Morton, the maker behind our first and very limited collection of ceramic and paper mâché lamps. Kaz is a Master of Fine Art graduate in painting and ceramics, and has hand-made and painted each and every paper mâché and ceramic lamp in her Phillip Island art studio.
In celebration of this exciting launch, we take you behind the scenes with Kaz and get to know more about the creative process behind the trio of lamps.
We’ve been a long time fan of all your gorgeous work. Can you give us a quick rundown on your journey to becoming an artist, ceramicist, and maker?
I've always been a maker since I was a child, I'm generally an inquisitive person, love to try new things and explore, whether it be countries, practices or mediums. I think these kinds of minds lend themselves to being artists! I studied Fine Art in my home town of Dublin, Ireland, majoring in Painting and just dabbling occasionally in ceramics as there wasn't access to a kiln. It wasn't until I became pregnant and had to put the paintbrush down that I really started to explore the medium of clay. For a woman who had severe morning sickness and a very sensitive nose, working with clay with it's lack of scent fumes was a natural alternative, this is why I love the connection in my practice between clay and painting, both bring me so much joy!
I started Kaz Ceramics just over 10 years ago now and have just opened a new studio on Phillip Island called Clay & Co, (@clayandcophillipisland) here people can come and also learn about my craft. I love teaching and sharing my practice, it gives people a whole new perspective and appreciation on the pieces they use every day in their homes. To learn that pieces can take months to dry, weeks to fire is something that people generally don't know and they always walk away from the studio with a newly found appreciation for hand made.
How did this project with Kip&Co come about? What drew you to the brand and partnership?
I have also been a long time fan of Kip&Co and was excited when Hayley approached me earlier this year, definitely a pinch me moment! Working with a maker, especially a ceramicist where our timelines are frequently dependent on weather conditions can be a test to any person! It's definitely a process and one that takes time, it's not instantaneous you can't take shortcuts because ultimately shortcuts end up with pieces exploding in the kiln!! Ultimately hand-making pieces takes time, but they are pieces made to last a lifetime! My type of practice lends itself to being aligned with ethical brands, which I know Kip&Co are.
I love that Kip&Co is continually evolving and always popping up on my feed with exciting new ranges and collaborations. I am very proud of what we have created here, these sculptural organic pieces will definitely be a talking point in any home.
Where do you find inspiration and how do you stay creative?
I'm very fortunate to live on a farm on the coastline of Phillip Island, there is no shortage of inspiration all around me! The ever changing light, stunning sunrises and sunsets and the rugged coast line and with the city just two hours away I can get my busy fix there when I need it!.
I'm always learning and love to see the beauty and find inspiration in small things. My practice is always pushing me, I make small batches of ceramics and learn from each range or exploration, sometimes it is the mistakes that are the greatest teachers. I also find each time I make a range it leads me to the next, like a continual story with multiple chapters, sometimes you can see the direct link, sometimes you can't! I feel very fortunate in the way I work, I can have an idea and I can bring it to life from start to finish and tweak it as I go. This is the joy of hand-building, no large machinery or industry to change, just my two little hands to guide the process!
Can you talk us through the process of how you helped make these Kip&Co beauties come to life? Do each of the lamps have their own unique and individual quirks from the production process?
There were definitely challenges in producing these pieces! If each lamp could talk they would have a great story to tell! Ultimately I wanted the purchaser to be able to pick up the piece and be able to feel that it has been 100% hand made. I love the different characteristics of each light. With 'Tart It Up' I love the juxtaposition of the perfect dome with its smooth finish against the paper mâché textural organic shade, the linking element between the two is the hand painted lines of pink and red over the blue base.
With 'Desert Sands' the textural nature of the paper mâché base contrasts with the smooth angular linen shade, each piece is hand built using recycled paper, the challenge of making this one has to have been the unpredictable Melbourne weather! It made for very slow drying times and during this phase we converted several of my studios at Clay & Co into makeshift drying rooms!!
Developing 'Sunday Sunshine' was definitely the most challenging of this range! There is a reason you see more circular shapes in ceramics than square or rectangular! This piece contains 20 joins and 41 individually painted squares. Each tile colour has also been carefully formulated with months of testing for each tile, some of those coloured tiles contain at least 6 other colours in their recipe, there is true alchemy in this piece! Even though the shape is very formal, it is softened by the hand painted lines with occasional brush strokes peeping through or a slight variation in line of the rectangular shape.
In some of the materials you use, your shapes, textures and finishes celebrate the imperfect. What attracts you to creating work that’s outside of the box?
I love the imperfect and organic, I'm drawn to the Japanese practice and teachings of "Wabi-Sabi" An aesthetic that is centered on the acceptance of transience and imperfection. I find it much more interesting, and comforting to be surrounded by and create organic objects, then those that are seamless and sterile, there is a certain character in the organic form. My favourite part of working with ceramics is when someone picks up for example a cup that has a thumb print in it and they incidentally find it! There is a moment of connection there! Like listening to a piece of music that resonated with you, for me, ultimately, this is what it is all about, connection, surrounding yourself with people or things that you have connected with and that bring you joy.