We are excited to welcome our upcoming Artist in Focus, Ella Bendrups, with her Domestic Talisman series. With a background in styling and studies in Communication Design and Interior Design, Bendrups began social ceramics classes in late 2015 before progressing to a self-led explorative practice. Most recently Bendrups completed a Guest Artist in Residence program at Northcote Pottery Supplies, where she was able to create work on a larger scale and dedicate a significant amount of time to research. We caught up with Ella to learn more about her inspirations and experience during the residency.
Your practice is inspired by ancient clay and stone artefacts, what originally drew you to this style of ceramic work?
Even as a child I was interested in objects. I would notice the sometimes subtle differences in something as simple as a water glass or a fork when I visited friends and family. This interest grew stronger when I was introduced to museum or gallery exhibitions where I could view objects of daily or ritual use from other cultures or time periods. I loved seeing the showpieces for their visual impact, but found equal pleasure in simpler, everyday pieces that I could imagine myself using even though they originated hundreds of years and kilometres away from me.
My current practice is focused on ancient clay and stone artefacts, and explores their ability to transcend the times and cultures in which they were created. I draw on influences from archeological finds from around the Mediterranean, with specific interest in Cycladic, Cypriot and Etruscan cultures. There’s a seemingly endless amount of these objects out there and despite the mass quantities, these pieces still feel personal and reflect the techniques and style of their maker and their beliefs about the world.
Do you find your background in styling has influenced the way you approach your sculptural work? In what way?
Though my background in styling influences how I photograph my work, it is my studies in Interior Design and Decoration that have had the most influence on my approach to sculptural work. I was fascinated by my Design History and Theory unit, learning about our connection to our interiors throughout history and the ways we would use design to address our hopes and fears. When I approach a sculptural work I hope that it will connect to a person on a deeper level and that they will continue to be served by it for as long as it is in their space.
This collection was created as part of your Artist Residency at Northcote Pottery Supplies earlier this year, can you tell us a bit more about your time there?
I was fortunate to have been the Guest Artist in Residence at Northcote Pottery Supplies at the beginnings of the year, which was only minimally affected by a COVID-19 lockdown. It was freeing to be provided with a large workbench as I normally work from a small studio and spend a lot of time shuffling things around to access my workbench. I found it incredibly beneficial to spend my entire first week researching and sketching, something which I have previously only done in scraps of stolen time. It was an important reminder that the research phase of a project is much more effective and satisfying if it’s your sole focus. During the Residency I made my largest forms to date and was so thankful to have staff around who were able to help me when I suddenly realised I couldn’t handle one of the pieces myself, something which would have been disastrous in my own studio where I work alone. I feel like I was able to grow and develop as an artist in a significant way during my twelve weeks as Guest Artist in Residence at Northcote Pottery Supplies and I am truly grateful to have been offered the opportunity.
If you could collaborate with any other artist or brand, who would it be and why?
I would jump at the chance to collaborate with garden designer Piet Oudolf. I have a deep appreciation for his approach, where perennial plant life cycles are considered and a garden for four seasons is achieved. It would be a welcome challenge to develop a large-scale sculptural talisman to sit within a specific exterior site.
In Conversation: Joshua Searle, PLAY