My work

Posted by on Jan 17, 2013 in Travel | 15 comments

Friday 17 February

It’s been 2 weeks now and I feel ready to show the progress of my work.  This project commenced February 2012 in terms of an idea but I had no actual idea as to where it would lead me.

While working on another body of work I uncovered a series of drawings by American architect Marion Mahony Griffin prepared for hers and American architect Walter Burley Griffin winning entry in the Australian Federal Capital Design Competition in 1912.   What occurred to me about one of these renderings was how white the buildings were envisaged in this new city (Canberra) and how the landscape seemed to hover ever so gently in, and around, the delicate lined streets of suburbia. Neither Walter or Marion had been to Australia, “…In 1912, idealized images of the native landscape-known colloquially as the bush-and its requisite eucalyptus and gum trees were gaining iconic status as symbols of national identity…” Debora Wood, Marion Mahony Griffin: Drawing the Form of Nature (Illinois: Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art Northwestern University Press, 2005), 11.

4185438_0001 copy 2View from the Summit of Mount Ainslie, 1911. Credit: National Archives of Australia

Australia is often associated with sun, white beaches, rain forests and desert.  Canberra is like a garden city – surrounded by bush and our winters are cold, windy and with the occasional snow dumps.  We have soft blue skies and when the light hits the silver birches and gum trees it highlights how serene Canberra is.



However, as the past three weeks has shown, Canberra and the rest of Australia have been experiencing perhaps one of the worst heat waves in history. Scorching temperatures, sweating firefighters and city/country people bracing themselves day in day out as rising temperatures refuse to budge. But more on that later and back to Marion’s rendering.

I tucked this rendering away for a while as a possible future project.  A few months later I had the opportunity to apply for an artist in residence at Guldagergaard, the drawing re-surfaced and unbeknown to me Marion became my shadow.  She followed me everywhere as I read about her, watched a documentary, visited the National Archives of Australia to view the original works with conservator Ian Batterham, and discuss the finer points of the material, the water colours, and Marion’s relationship with her husband.  I figured there must be some way I can include her in my original proposal – celebrating Canberra’s centenary in 2013 and creating a body of work that places my association with growing up in a city surrounded by bush.

Without going into the finer points of researching and initial testing ideas – this was a 7-10 month process – I’ll try to narrow down elements which are crucial to the final outcome of potential exhibition work.


Surface decorations

Sanam Emami

Sanam Emami

Sanam Emami is a creator of markings through surface decorations; stamping and application of silkscreen transfers on her vases/teapots. I particularly like her markings beneath the transfer and how the two techniques blend seamlessly and provide the viewer with an additional experience to the decorative.

I experimented with a range of objects (old and new) and narrowed it down to a old Canberra tourist spoon, a new vinyl placemat from the National Museum of Australia shop (acknowledging local indigenous people who can trace their occupancy of this space, for many thousands of years), an Australian window shade blind with a simple weave (Marion used ‘window shade holland’ as her surface to create her renderings), and a cake tool (acknowledging my part time retail job to support my practice).

Screen-printing and decals



Marion used a range of techniques in three mediums – textiles, paper and painting.  I did not necessarily want to use the same techniques but acknowledge that any work I created would be made mostly by hand – as she did.  The only processes which required modern equipment was the digital machinery to produce the decals and (I think) the light process to expose images of Marion and the ghost gum tree on to the silk screens.



How I came to choosing black silhouettes of Marion was based on a little known fact “…at the end of her life, she altered the credit lines on a number of drawings in her possession to read ‘Marion Mahony Griffin, designing architect’…”. In the documentary City of Dreams one of the social historians explains, she also blacked out the credit lines but this was done with sensitivity as her and Walter had an incredible artistic collaboration. I thought this was very telling of that period and how complex her relationship must have been personally and professionally. Hence, my need to tell her story and parallel it with mine.

What I really enjoyed about the preparation for screen-printing was hand drawing each of the images and trying to work out how to create positive/negative areas, which would enhance the portraiture/landscape.  I was fortunate one of the teachers (Denise Ferris) at the Canberra School of Art (my other part-time job) liked the way Marion was captured – in time, the period, her Mary Jane shoes, long dress and reflective stance.  She suggested I look up Kara Walker, an artist who creates cut black paper portraits and adheres them to paper, canvas and walls. Her silhouettes are delightful, thought provoking and some with a modern twist.

Walker_Whitehot @ Hammer Museum

Walker_Whitehot @ Hammer Museum

I had this idea I would have Marion looking forward with her vision of this new city and me reflecting on being the person she envisaged living the life. So, my friend Trish photographed me sitting on a contemporary chair, in a short-medium length dress, high heels and looking very relaxed.  See, Marion was always on my mind and I was constantly wondering what would she think…

Marking Place

Just before I left Australia, I had the chance to attend a talk by Curator Peter Haynes on a group exhibition by three prominent Canberra artists – G.W. Bot, Anita McIntyre, Wendy Teakel.  Marking Place provided me with the confidence I needed to be able to pull my many ideas together and focus on cohesion, subject matter, and simplicity.  In particular, Ceramicist Anita McIntyre’s fish memories (2012) resonated with my goal to keep the form clean and relevant to the subject matter so the decorative narrative could surface.  G.W. Bot’s Paddock, glyphs and moon, 2011 also provide a pivotal turning point in my work last week and as I looked at her ‘limited palette – black, red and ochre‘ I could see another layout crystallizing before me.

As previously mentioned, Australia has been experiencing heat waves and bushfires in and around cities and rural towns.  I looked at my Danish clay – yellow brick and realized how this symbolized the dry heat – haze and smoke the firefighters experience; then my red screen print of me – initially a bold statement about my own independence as a woman – but how this could mean fire. The sky was pitch red I recall driving home in 2003 not knowing it would be a catastrophic event for Canberra; the black is in reference to burnt trees that dot the country at any given time.  I think I now have two possible works – one serene (old) and one in the present day (new).  Thanks Marion.



Thanks also must be mentioned to Joanne Searle for our speed dating session on screen-printing in my garage and Sasha Kukoc for her patience in creating the silk screens.

© Anne Masters Ceramics


  1. don’t you mean your ‘studio’ – it is my garage…

    • Babe, you are funny 😉 Yes, I keep forgetting…my studio. Mmmm…if only we can sort out the kiln situation…

  2. Thanks for this account Anne, of the creative process. I feel inspired and can’t wait to see the final work…Fran

    • Hi Fran, you should see the other artists I’m working with…they are so good and I’m really impressed with their work, approach and ideas. We’ve had 13 presentations now (including mine) and 2 guest artists speak – both Danish – 1 in her 30s the other in her 70s and its been a really good insight into the history of ceramics and the contemporary work happening now. Its only been 2 weeks and already I’m feeling like I’m back at uni in the ceramic workshop. So a little bit like home 🙂

  3. What an amazing story we have just read about what has been unfolding in your thoughts these last few months and the work that you have done and the people you have met who have inspired you to keep working on what is obviously a major project. Today – 18th is the 10th Anniversary of the bush fires in Canberra and it is not a nice day. Dry, windy, hot – it was well into the 30’s at mid-day, and the memories that will have been stirred and are still hard for people to talk about, the loss so many experienced, then the generous spirit that people found from their friends, neighbours and the community makes Canberra a very special place that hopefully Marion would have been proud of. There is no doubt that all communities everywhere respond so well when there is a tragedy it is just a shame that it takes a fire, flood, shooting etc to bring people together so well.
    We are very proud of your Anne and the work you doing. We look forward to the next chapter of your experience and hard work.
    All our love Mum and Dad +

    • Thanks Mum and Dad – my #1 supporters 😉

  4. You should feel completely at home amongst all those other artists, Anne, for you are incredibly creative, wonderfully talented and utterly inspiring. I am so excited to have played a small part in your extraordinary creative process and I am just bursting with anticipation to see it all come together! xxx

    • Thanks Trish, I’m feeling those positive vibes all the way from Australia. Its only been 2 weeks and I still have more to do. I can’t wait! So watch this space.

  5. Anne, I enjoy reading all your posts and this one especially. I am amazed by your creativity and talent! I totally love the links with the history of Canberra. It’s wonderful to showcase this fantastic city that we all love. Enjoy your time in Denmark. Vicki x

    • Thanks Vicki, I’ve really enjoyed the work, it helps I have a beautiful studio to go to and am surrounded by some clever young artists. I’m in awe of their work and have been lucky that they are willing to share ideas/help me make my moulds/apply decals (beer is a good enticer!)

  6. I agree with your mother, it is an astonishing journey you are on. I have only once been drawn to ceramich previously with the work of Susan Bellamy but I so look forward to seeing what arrives after this trip. ove Annabelle

  7. Great to read about all the work and thought that goes into your work, Anne, and to see glimpses of what is in the making. Thanks for sharing. Can’t wait to see/hear more!
    Cher xx

    • Hi Cher, glad you are enjoying the post. I’m trying to make it interesting and worth the read. As you know I love writing…my only thing I haven’t done so far is drawings of the place. I’m so busy with everything else. I’m going to try later this evening with my limited palette of promarkers. Hope all is well on your end xx

  8. Wow Anne, amazing story! Can’t wait to see more than a sneak peak. Hope you’re still enjoying the creative process and life in snowy Denmark. What an exciting experience. Looking forward to seeing you back home next month though.
    take care,

    • Hi Megan, lovely to hear from you. Have you started work yet? I hope that goes well and the boys settle in while you get back into the swing of working etc. I’ve enjoyed the snow so much and even the snow blizzard we had on Sunday. Today, the sun came out and we lost probably 1/3 of the snow. Talk about funny…trying to walk to the shop was funny as I tried desperately not to slip on the black ice and had to cling to the snow/grass/trees on the way to the shops. We’ve just had dinner and I’ve only had 2 x G&T’s, 2 x red wines and now a beer…oh! dear. I hope I pull up okay…but I’ve been nice to relax as we’ve all been working hard maximizing our time here. Its flying and I can’t believe I’ve only got 2 weeks left before heading to Copenhagen for 3 days. Missing girlie time and looking forward to coming back xx

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