Nicolette Johnson, Ceramicist

Already a talented and successful photographer, Nicolette Johnson’s emerging career as a ceramicist has us wide-eyed. Her stunning shapes and designs are both unique and elegant, evidence of the care and artistry she approaches her life with. The responses she shares with us today are an honest insight into her practice - thank you Nicolette, we are truly inspired!

What do you do?

I am an emerging ceramic artist who has just dived into full-time making this year. I really like to make large vases with simple, bold shapes that are decorative and functional. The work I'm making at the moment borrows from ancient, Etruscan forms while still having a contemporary quality.

Do you have a maxim that you live and work by?

If you are privileged enough to be able to do what it is that you love, you owe it to yourself to do it.

What are the three milestones that have led you to where you stand?

The first milestone that lead me to where I am today was probably attending art school. I studied photography (specifically social documentary and photojournalism) for four years and it gave me a much deeper knowledge of visual language, how to read artworks, and creating work with meaning. The next milestone was developing a love for handmade ceramics and starting a little collection of vintage pottery. I loved the uniqueness and sense of history imbued in each piece I collected, and eventually I really wanted to learn how to do that myself. Which lead to the third milestone, enrolling in pottery classes.

What projects do you have in the pipeline?

At the moment I am preparing work for several exhibitions early in 2017, as well as producing a selection of one-of-a-kind pieces for a few independent retail stores around Australia.

What is your dream project?

Because I am still emerging as an artist, I would love to have my work published in a book or magazine, I can't imagine the satisfaction of it!

What’s something surprising about you, that we might not know?

I deal with some pretty bad anxiety, which sometimes makes motivating myself really difficult! With anxiety it's really easy to avoid things you are afraid of, and I even hesitated enrolling in a pottery class for almost a year because I was so scared of trying something new. I felt sick to my stomach the first day I walked up the driveway to the studio for class. But I made myself do it and that's really one of the best ways to overcome those feelings.

If you could choose to hear from any female contemporary at a Make Nice event, who would it be and why?

I would love to hear from Lauren Spencer King who is a fine artist and meditation teacher whose minimal, abstract work centres on the natural world. Another artist I would love to listen to would be ceramicist Alana Wilson whose experimental shapes and glazes echo the history of ceramics as well as reflect different landscapes around the world.

What is the best advice you’ve been given, or wish you had been told sooner?

Making mistakes is part of learning, and you are never finished learning.

Do you have a supportive female network in your field? Was it always this way?

I have found that artists (both female and male) in the field of ceramics tend to be some of the most supportive, motivational people there are. The school + communal studio where I do some of my work is full of kind-hearted, helpful, encouraging folks and it is so wonderful to be around a community like that.

Can you share a creative experience that you have found defining?

I think a particularly defining moment for me was participating in a wood firing for the first time last year. Wood fired ceramics are completely different to ceramics fired in an electric kiln. There can be over a hundred hours put into a single piece of work, and somehow that effort emanates from the pot when it's finished. The heat and the ash from the wood and the carbon and the oxygen react with the clay in such a magical way that you can never fully control or predict and it was very special to witness for the first time.

What are you listening to, reading, watching of late, that is inspiring or entertaining you?

I've been listening to Dan Carlin's Hardcore History podcasts which are fascinating. I've been slowly making my way through a book my dad gave me for Christmas called An Awakened Life by Christopher Titmuss, which applies his experiences as a Buddhist to everyday life situations and dilemmas. I always love watching Grand Designs, and lately The Great Pottery Throwdown, because it's good fun to see people do on television what you do in real life!

What is one facet of your field that you want to see change?

I have heard some people ask why handmade ceramics are so expensive, when you can go and get a ceramic mug from Kmart for $2.00. I definitely think there is a greater understanding now as to why there is such value placed on the handmade, but I think it still needs to be emphasised just how much work goes into a single cup, for example. There are so many hours between throwing it on the wheel, letting it firm up, trimming it to a pleasing proportion, leaving it to become bone dry, packing it into the kiln, firing it to at least 1000°C, unpacking it from the kiln, glazing it, repacking it into the kiln, and then firing it to 1280°C before finally having a finished piece, (and that's if everything goes well).

What do you want to be asked about that no one ever asks you?

I think a good question would be: What do you wish to improve on? And my answer would be, in pottery and in life, patience.

How can we find our more about your work?

My website is currently being revamped, but you can still find my work at www.nicolettejohnsonceramics.com. I also post a lot of work on my Instagram, @swsco

Who would you most like to answer these questions next?

There are so many creative women whose answers I would really love to read! I would love to get a better insight into artist Genevieve Felix Reynolds' practice.