Award-winning ceramic artist Shannon Garson is on a mission to help people tap into their creativity, saying it’s a way to bring happiness and relaxation to an increasingly busy and stressed society.
The Maleny artist is a finalist in the Queensland Regional Arts Award for her work The Epic Flight of the Arctic Tern, the latest in a string of awards and accolades that stretch back through her 25-year career.
Sensing a lack of creative outlets in the lives of many people she meets through her exhibitions here and overseas, this year she began running retreats for people who want to meet artists in their homes, watch them work in their studios and do a workshop with them either for pure enjoyment, or perhaps to uncover a latent talent.
“I can see this hunger in people to want to know what artists do,” she says.
“People ask me a lot of questions whenever I do exhibitions and I can see they really want to connect with their creativity, but they just don’t know what to do.”
Ms Garson feels fortunate to work as a full-time artist – supplementing her ceramics sales with speaking engagements and writing for industry publications – but acknowledges this lifestyle isn’t feasible for everyone.
“Even if you have to go back to your job in an office or whatever you might do, being creative helps you in a real way in your job and all areas of your life. It hooks you into a way of thinking and you can flip your mind across. Being creative actually assists you with tasks you wouldn’t expect.”
Ms Garson began her career as a painter in 1985 after completing a Bachelor of Visual Art and quickly found her vocation in ceramic art.
Paintings hanging on gallery walls didn’t excite her the way something tactile could. She felt a burning desire to make fine white porcelain pots as a base for her visual art, which is inspired by nature – leaves, shrubs, trees, flowers, birds and bird nests. Her goal has always been to make art people would use in their everyday lives.
In 2005 she was granted a $20,000 Churchill Fellowship to travel to France and Italy to study the ceramic collections there and undertook a four-week residency at Dartington Pottery in Devon, in the UK.
“When you get a Churchill Fellowship, you have to have reached the top of your field in Australia and be prepared to come back to Australia and share your experience,” she says.
“It really strengthened the aspect of me where I wanted to share my knowledge with the community.”
Working from a bright studio beneath her Maleny home, she draws her designs freehand onto Australia-made ‘southern ice’ porcelain clay, transforming them into exquisite, yet functional pieces.
Her family – husband Trevor Hart, a jazz musician and artisan cheesemaker – and daughters Daphne and Pearl, eat off Ms Garson’s handmade porcelain every day.
In October, she’ll invite the community into her charming home when she runs her second retreat for the year.
“We’re running a retreat for two days at the Old Witta School with my friend Nanna Bayer, a Finnish artist who lives in Tasmania.
“We’re both taking workshops, and in the middle of the two days, we’re having a big feast at my house, so everyone gets to come to my house, be in my space and have a look at my studio. We’ll have beautiful food, music, storytelling and a bonfire.
“I didn’t design this retreat specifically for potters. I how there are thousands of people out there who feel like they’re creative but they’re not connecting with it at the moment. I get that. When you’re busy, it’s hard to flip your brain into creative mode. This is a kickstarter.
“One thing I think that is essential to being creative is being able to recognise when there’s a little tiny thread of something you’re interested in, follow that through to its conclusion.”
The retreat runs from October 27 to 28 in Maleny and Witta. For more information visit shannongarsonporcelain.com.au.
5 quick questions
- What do you love about spring? I love the citrus blossoms – I have an orange tree under my window.
- What inspires your work in spring? The wallum and the native flowers are all blooming this time of year, lots of tiny little bush flowers. There’s also heaps of native bees around too, which I use in my work.
- Favourite food to eat in spring? Haloumi and watermelon salad. I look forward to the tomatoes ripening so I can have tomato and mozzarella with basil.
- What music do you listen to while you work? Lately I’ve been listening to Beth Orton’s Sugaring Season.
- What’s something about you people would be surprised to know? If I wasn’t an artist and I could sing, my ideal job would be a backup singer in an all-girl band.