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Useful Treasure or Treasured Useless?

Not all things exist to serve a function; some exist simply to be appreciated for their aesthetics and intrigue. The objects within Useful Treasures / Treasured Useless fully encompass the beauty of functional ambiguity to focus on one of two diametric concepts: useful treasures and the treasured useless. 

In timing with the launch of Useful Treasures / Treasured Useless, we asked several artists who feature in the collection to select a treasured object of their very own, useful or useless, and to share the meaning behind it. What a pleasure it is to hear their unique stories of their special objects.

Tessy King

Tessy King is a ceramic artist currently based on the Bellarine Peninsula in Victoria. The vessel is the object central to her current work through which she examines the point of convergence of sculpture and domestic ware. Within her arts practice more broadly, King considers how meaning is generated through the arrangement of objects and materials in larger installations and playful vignettes.

“I have been making a smaller version of these dishes [her Rope Stone Bowls, created exclusively for Modern Times] for years. I always just use whatever leftover clay I have at the end of a studio day to use up the clay and make something small to fill gaps in the kiln. I tend to gift them to friends or keep them around my own home with jewellery, collected shells etc in them. When I was asked to make an object for Useful Treasures / Treasured Useless I automatically thought of these dishes as they are some of the most ‘useful’ and treasures objects I own, myself. I love their functionality and that they stand alone as small sculptures.”

Cassie Hansen


Cassie Hansen’s work is inspired by the simplified forms and linear qualities of architecture and the built environment, as well as the shadows and compositions captured in architectural photography.

“This ceramic bear was made by my dad when he was just six years old, I’d say in 1945. My dad wasn’t a creative or artistic person – he was a bus driver for the Brisbane City Council for almost 50 years – so I love that I may have one of the only artistic pieces he ever made. I’m terrible at sculpting animals or human figures with clay, so it amazes me how well my dad captured this little bear – his broad neck and pointy face, the scratched impresses that make his fur, his strong but playful pose, and even the little plinth the bear stands upon (with dad’s initials scribbled on the underside). Dad died thirteen years ago and so now this little ceramic bear is, without doubt, my most treasured possession.”

Grace Brown (of Oh Hey Grace)

Grace Brown creates a mix of functional and sculptural pieces using a combination of wheel thrown and hand building techniques. Influenced by geometry, contrasting textures, architectural forms and the work of M.C. Escher, her work is part functional ware and part Utopian cityscapes with labyrinth-like buildings featuring layers of geometric stairwells, sharp lines, smooth adobe domes and archways.

“My most treasured possession came into my life recently during the latest lockdown here in Melbourne. My mother lives regionally and often sends parcels while I was in lockdown. They would be filled with photos, baked treats, letters, and other things that she knew would brighten my day. In her most recent parcel she sent me a necklace that she used to wear that I loved as a young child. We believe it to be a good luck charm as it always seemed to bring good fortune, provide protection, and even made its way back to us after being stolen many moons ago. In her most recent parcel she included a note that said she hoped it provided the same sort of protection it offered her all those years ago and I treasure the memories and good luck embedded within it.”

Stay tuned for another instalment in this series coming soon.

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