Western Front: Fleur Schell

Article excerpt

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GREG PAYCE TALKS TO FLEUR SCHELL ABOUT HER current work and the new SODA Studio that she and her husband Richard have established in Perth. He first asks how she describes her creative practice and if there are any categories such as artist, craftsperson, or designer; that she feels she fits well within?

I avoid categorising my practice. 'Maker' best encapsulates what I do but my activity fits all three of the categories you mentioned. My practice is driven by ideas rather than process and usually reflects my personal history. I do consider design integral to everything I make and I employ the skills of a craft practitioner through the execution and finish of every piece of work.

I am never happier than when I am making and have a constant desire to build and construct things from unadulterated beginnings. Although my in come centres around activities directly associated with ceramics I am constantly exploring and playing and engaging with other materials such as: paper, driftwood, polymer clay, beads, mosaics, digital graphics and assemblage of found objects and materials. The notion of making stuff and 'doing it myself' influences all facets of my life. For example, I compose my own music on piano and guitar. I also design my own clothes and my mother and I manufacture them together. I tell people that I am an artist and if they enquire further I tell them I work in ceramics and mixed media.

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You are making ceramic and mixed-media works which, in addition to being shown in exhibitions, also are conceived and designed as tableaux to illustrate themes for an upcoming children's book. Tell me more about this and in particular, what set you on this direction?

My ceramics have become larger and more fragile to freight and I am constantly seeking a broader audience for my work. Constructing a children's book illustrated with works in porcelain and mixed media will provide a format with limitless potential in reaching a much larger and more diverse audience. Book sales should also provide income aside from my ceramics practice.

Recently my work underwent a change in direction and themes. The inspiration for this new direction was born early on the morning of February the 4th 2005. Her name is Heidi and from the moment my daughter was born it dramatically changed the way I experienced the world. Heidi allowed me to become reacquainted with the magical world of children's books. I'm not sure who was more captivated by their colour or more moved by their messages, Heidi or myself.

Early on, a strong bond developed between Heidi and our dog, Kilbey. Their daily shenanigans were wonderful to watch. Before long a series of three-dimensional storyboards, materialised in my studio. So I began a new fantastic journey of discovery merging the free and expressive genre of figurative porcelain with children's literature.

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The majority of contemporary Australian children's books employ themes of iconic Australian fauna and flora. As with most Australian children, Heidi's daily adventures revolve around urban settings and it seemed irrelevant and inappropriate to draw on those traditional themes when planning this new hybrid work. Our bathroom, the kitchen, the swings at the local oval, and her bedroom are all places intrinsic to her life and thus became the logical physical sites for this series. Heidi has an uncanny knack of making even the most ordinary activity extraordinary within these everyday settings.

Whether she is pulling the plug in the bath, or dreaming that her bedroom is an aquarium, soaring higher and higher on the swing in the park, or negotiating her peas and cheese with Kilbey from her high chair, the dynamic duo of Heidi and Kilbey have become an inseparable inspiration.

Why do you think it is that you use ceramics as your primary medium and how do you make choices as to which other media to use? …