We’re enamoured with the work of Melbourne-based ceramicist Bettina Willner-Browne, and now we get to delve deeper into her practice through our Artist in Focus series. Recently completing a residency in Hungary, Bettina’s latest body of work ‘Soft Eyes’ considers the connection between material, form, nature, architecture and memory within contemporary ceramics. Organic shapes and textural glazes in creamy pink embody this collection of work; there’s shiny, pearlescent spheres stacked on top of each other, as well as jagged, coral-like forms. All the pieces instil a powerful urge to reach out and feel the contrasting surfaces under your skin.
Can you tell us about what led you to being an artist?
My father is a cabinet maker and worked from home and as a child I spent a lot of time in his workshop making objects from wood. We lived in the country on a property with an amazing garden, creek and animals. This was definitely the foundation and led me to want to continue a creative life.
What inspired this body of work?
My work is autobiographical and intuitive, and so many aspects are contained within my work. There are a few recent experiences that have seeped into my practice. Last year I travelled with my family to Queensland to explore the national parks and amazing reefs – we snorkelled throughout the islands and walked the Ngaro Sea Trail. The ocean, landscape and history inspired me. The urgency of how precious and fragile this environment is has had a huge impact on me.
My heritage draws me back to places throughout Europe. I recently explored the Iberian Peninsula and its ancient Palaces and gardens. I find monumental and highly decorative architecture hugely inspiring.
You recently returned from a residency in Hungary (which looked incredible), tell us about what part of your practice and process evolved while there?
My main focus was having the time and freedom to explore different techniques and ideas. I wanted to follow through every idea without the pressure of having to finish work for anything other than pure exploration.
How would you describe your experience during this time?
Inspiring and peaceful. It was a quiet time of self reflection and research. I did a weekly trip to Budapest to explore museums and art galleries; it was a great source of inspiration.
What is your favourite part of the creative process and why?
My process with ceramics has distinct stages; I make the object, consider the colour and texture, then fire until I get the results I’m after. It’s very experimental – expectations can lead to some disappointments but when everything aligns it’s amazing. Good momentum and being in the creative headspace are my favourite parts.
What would you like to explore through your work in the future?
I am loving my current exploration of human made and natural architecture and will continue with this, it is vast.
If you weren’t working with clay as an artist, what would you be doing?
Working as a painter.
If you could purchase one thing for your home, and money was no object, what would it be?
Artwork; a painting or sculpture. I would love to buy more art.
What are you listening to at the moment (music and/or podcast)?
I have a radio in my studio so I listen to a lot of Triple R. I like public radio and its diversity. I haven’t got into podcasts as yet but I’m reading Ninth Street Women by Mary Gabriel.
In what ways does your work challenge you or change the way you think?
Looking with fresh eyes can be challenging when you’re deeply immersed in your work. My family are a great source of support. Kids have no filter – they tell it how they see it.