Kelly Austin

Kelly Austin

The piles of platters, coffee cups, tiny bowls and side plates all destined for the smasher but saved by aghast friends of Canadian ceramicist Kelly Austin have to be seen to be believed.  A tiny crack here, an inconsistent glaze there - the imperfections that lead Kelly to classify a piece as a ‘reject’ are all but invisible to the untrained eye. 

This could go some way in explaining why the award-winning ceramicist hasn’t ever worked with a retail partner before - despite the swag of accolades, prizes and international residencies under her belt. 

The word ‘perfectionist’ conjures an image of someone cold and calculating - and it’s not right for Kelly.  Soft spoken, humble and warm beyond measure, this very qualified artist brings a quiet sophistication to Australia’s somewhat noisy ceramic scene. 

 

Kelly is a graduate The Emily Carr University in Vancouver, has trained under Gailan Ngan and Julie York, and has spent time at the Haystack Mountain School of Craft in Maine and the Medalta International Residency Centre in Medicine, Alberta.  Her work has been selected for the British Columbia Creative Achievement Award and Hobart Art Prize, and she recently completed a Masters of Philosophy in Ceramics at ANU.  That’s a lot of feathers for her cap.

Working on a potter’s wheel (which she blames Ghost for romanticizing), the Tasmania based ceramicist creates tableware and one-off pieces that highlight the features of the material from which they’re made.  Organic, minimal forms and soft, nuanced glazes are her trademarks. 

While Kelly’s work has appeared in galleries and her own pop-ups, today marks the first time she has agreed to work with a retail partner.  The hand formed wine decanters that she has made available exclusively to Sorry Thanks I Love You are based on her award-winning piece for Handpicked Wines’ and Gallery Klei’s inaugural ceramic wine decanter competition. 

Porous yet water tight, clay decanters have been used for more than seven centuries and are championed by sommeliers for their ability to control temperature and aerate wine.  Kelly’s decanter incorporates an organic form and heavy stopper  - and beat more than 60 entries to win first prize earlier this year.

“I spent some time experimenting with color and different surface qualities of the glaze,” Kelly explains. “While I wanted something refined, I was also looking for something that felt earthen and raw. 

For her limited edition project for Sorry Thanks I Love You, Kelly has rejuvenated this design and used two different glazes: soft charcoal and raw sand

Because there are so many stages to the making process (throwing, trimming, bisque firing, cleaning, waxing, glazing, glaze firing, and sanding, it’s almost impossible to calculate how long each piece took to make. But Kelly’s best guess is three weeks. 

“Ceramic materials are incredibly complex to work with,” explains Kelly.  “I can understand why workshops and factories make so much sense - many minds are better than one! As are years of log books, recipes and tricks of the trade.” 

While identical in aesthetic and style, each hand thrown decanter is completely unique. Just don’t let yourself think about the reject pile.

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Kelly Austin's limited edition wine decanters are available now.