Making objects from clay extends back thousands of generations among Australia’s First Peoples. Much has been passed down from generation to generation, and this knowledge manifests in the present, draws on the past, and extends into the future.
The third iteration of the Blak Design program has brought together nine participants, from an open call for entry, to work with ceramics during 2023. Each came with vastly different experience, backgrounds, mobs and previous dealings with ceramics. This is where mentors, Janet Fieldhouse (Torres Strait Islander) and David Ray brought their vast experience together to guide and harness the many ideas each brought to the Blak Design program.
Exhibited together for the first time, Fired Up: Stories Through Embers and Earth brings works that are extraordinarily individual, though grounded in relationships with history, storytelling, land and sea by using clay.
From body adornment that sees decorative mouth grillz used for dental embellishment; decorated fingernails, and knuckle dusters, to vessels that explore connection to the Stolen Generations, to a chess set, as a metaphor for colonisation. Visitors will also see a large black crow, depicting Waa, in a fiery glazed vessel (one metre in height) with lighting to accentuate the glow of flames, to woven clay wall hangings, and to the decorative and experimental. Fired Up explores the possibilities of clay.
First Peoples participants include: Annie Brigdale (Yorta Yorta), Suzanne Connelly-Klidomitis (Wiradjuri), Nicholas Currie (Yugambeh, Kuku Yalnji), Trina Dalton-Oogjes (Wadawurrung, Gunditjmara), Eleanor Franks (Gubbi Gubbi / Kabi Kabi), Mick Harding (Taungurung), Darcy McConnell (Dja Dja Wurrung, Yorta Yorta), Sean Miller (Gamilaroi) and Corina Muir (Yorta Yorta, Boonwurrung).
Fired Up: Stories Through Embers and Earth is the exhibition outcome from the Blak Design program. Now in its third year, it is presented by the KHT to foster First Peoples cultural innovation within the Victorian design sector and provide a platform for nurturing sustainable, First Peoples design practices.
Presented in partnership with The Ian Potter Foundation, RMIT University and precinct partner Fed Square.
Image: Annie Brigdale (Yorta Yorta), Unearthing Roots: A Journey of Disconnection and Reconnection, 2023. Earthenware, glaze, wire, decals, clay slip, flower. Installation dimensions variable. Collection of the artist. Photograph by Christian Capurro.