The Christmas markets are starting this weekend at Old Bus Depot and will continue to run on both Saturday and Sunday, every weekend until Christmas. It gives you ample time to get your Christmas shopping done, and while you may have already sorted out your Christmas gift shopping list, it’s hard to really account for the things you’ll find at markets.
That’s why we are showcasing some of the stallholders at the Christmas markets, so you know exactly what is being offered.
Today, meet Kate Leedham, the creator, owner and maker of Kate Ceramics. Kate is currently a full-time visual arts teacher and has been teaching in Canberra for the past decade. She has travelled extensively (which has no doubt inspired some of her creations), worked in galleries and studio work
shops, and completed a variety of visual arts degrees and diplomas.
Below is an interview with Kate about where she began and what inspires her that also showcases some of her fantastic designs and wares that will be on sale at the Old Bus Depot Christmas markets (which start tomorrow).
How did you discover ceramics? What was it that pulled you in?
I was in my final year of my degree at the University at Alexander Mackie in Paddington, Sydney. (I believe it is now a part of the University of Sydney.) I was studying a Bachelor of Visual Art and Education. We had to spend 12 weeks at a school, full time in our final year of teacher training. I was assigned to Kogarah High School and they had a specialist Ceramics program for their students and that was what I was to teach. I had no training in Ceramics. I was majoring in Screen-printing.
But, I loved it. The students were highly motivated, creative and very skilled. They obviously had a lot more knowledge and skills than me but they were inspiring. When I returned to finish my final semester at University I took two classes in Ceramics. Since then I have completed a Certificate and a Diploma in Ceramics and have been practicing Ceramics ever since.
What other creative activities have you pursued?
My focus has been on Ceramics over the past thirty years, both functional and sculptural but I have always been interested in painting and the printed media. I love colour and bold graphic design. I do combine this in my Ceramic work and often treat the ceramic form as a canvas but I would like to explore the more traditional side of painting and printing on textiles and fabrics also interests me.
How do you find that your “day job” at Gungahlin College influences your work?
Teaching can be a challenging profession but if you are going to teach there is no better area than in the Arts. The students bring their reality to the classroom, they lead with the topics that they wish to explore and I see my job is to provide them with the skills to be able to do that to the best of their ability.
How does this influence me? The vast difference of ideas, subject matter and approaches and their reflections of the world are inspiring. There are very few students who think, feel or act in the same way. It provides me with a kaleidoscope of creative ideas that I can reflect upon and in turn this affects my work.
You’ve just started making Christmas items (above): what are the challenges in making them?
There is really very little that has not been covered before in the Christmas theme. There can be a fine line between what you would like to create and what is commercially viable.
I particularly love your teapot series (above). What inspired some of your exhibition pots?
I do like to make teapots but not of the functional variety. I am able to do that, but I prefer a more sculptural approach. I recently made a group of teapots for the Melbourne Teapot Show 2015, titled “The People that you meet”. The teapots were inspired by three very creative, and inspirational, students I have taught over the years. I tried to capture the character and essence of each person in the form of the teapot and to include materials, textures and images that related to each of them. I love to combine mixed media and non-traditional materials in my work and this theme provided me the perfect avenue to express this.
In the fur teapot (right) I tried to encapsulate the sense of wildness, surprise and unpredictability of this person; with metal obtrusions, piercings and under the teapot lid, where you usually find a stopper to create stability in the pouring of the teapot I used a commercial dice. As you never knew what was coming next with this character. You had to roll the dice!
Bad Hair Day Teapot (left) was just another excuse to be able to explore a character in a teapot form and to be able to use a mix of media. Beads, wire and ceramic. Who doesn’t wake up in the morning some days and think: “oh, well if I just put on some accessories no one will notice the hair!”
Where do you find the inspiration for your patterns and designs?
I’m not sure. Sometimes they come from the form itself; the shape of the vessel or where I see that it may live within a setting when it is completed. I do love design magazines and textiles are often inspirational. I love combining colours and patterns in a sporadic and often in unconventional ways. I have even used the patterns of bar codes in my work. It is always nice to include an element of surprise. (Below, the final plate from a series of rock-star inspired quotes. David Bowie said “I don’t know where I’m going from here but I promise it won’t be boring.”)
Are you selling your wares at any of the Christmas markets going on around Canberra? Get in contact with Ellen ( ellen [at] the-riotact [dot] com ) and we may be able to interview you too!