Life of making and collecting displayed in ceramic show

Liz Hobday |

A collection of ceramicist Kylie Johnson’s handmade pieces are on display at the Museum of Brisbane.
A collection of ceramicist Kylie Johnson’s handmade pieces are on display at the Museum of Brisbane.

Brisbane ceramicist Kylie Johnson lives surrounded by so much beautiful pottery, even her washing up has an Instagram page.

In her twenties, Johnson’s rent money went on ceramics instead, with collecting becoming not only an aesthetic pursuit but a way of life.

Johnson uses handmade pieces in her kitchen every day.

“It’s so much more beautiful than just a white plate from Kmart, every meal is different because you’ve got a different cup or a different plate,” she told AAP.

Her extensive collection – or a portion of it – now features in the exhibition Clay: Collected Ceramics at the Museum of Brisbane.

The display stretches the length of a gallery wall, piled with Johnson’s vessels, plates and sculptures, so visitors can appreciate the artworks in their own right and as well as how they interact with each other.

On a centre plinth stand pieces that belonged to her parents – both potters – and other sentimental items that she treasures most of all.

Johnson is the co-author of a new survey of Australian ceramics published by Thames & Hudson and the founder of Brisbane ceramics gallery Paper Boat Press.

Here, she sells contemporary pieces worth thousands of dollars, but the clay ornaments and tags she makes herself, adorned with her poetry, are intentionally designed to be simple and affordable.

“I really wanted to make handmade, thoughtful pieces of ceramic that anyone could buy for an hour’s minimum wage,” she said.

It’s at her own gallery that the rest of Johnson’s personal collection can be found – the kitchen has been redesigned so every plate, bowl and cup is on show.

“I’m not scared of dust!” she jokes.

But isn’t she scared of breaking things?

Johnson is philosophical – she prefers living with beauty and the occasional accident rather than having things stored away.

“Everything breaks – bones break, hearts break and clay breaks – that’s my mantra,” she said.

Lucky that amongst her extensive ceramics training she has learnt the Japanese art of Kintsuge, or using gold for repairs.

Johnson has a lifelong connection with Japan and long ago fell in love with the country’s deep appreciation of aesthetics and the handmade.

That’s an appreciation she hopes her gallery, and participation in the Museum of Brisbane exhibition, will help spread more widely.

Clay: Collected Ceramics is on at the Museum of Brisbane until October 22.