These Surrealist-Inspired Vases Are the Breakthrough That Resulted From a Creative Block
Some designers may, at the beginning of the pandemic, have viewed the ensuing solitude as an opportunity to “bloom where you grow.” But not everyone found it easy to stay inspired. “After lockdown started in the early months of 2020, I felt completely unmotivated to make work,” confesses the Brisbane-based ceramicist Nicolette Johnson. “A combination of lethargy and creative block meant I couldn’t even muster up the energy to be in my studio.” After a while, however, Johnson gave herself permission to make literally anything, even if it wasn’t meant for something in particular. She began sculpting shapes out of soft clay — inspired by Surrealist and Constructivist motifs — and attaching them to small wheel-thrown vases. “I often find that when I let myself play in the studio — to create something that’s purely for my own enjoyment — that’s when a turning point can happen. There is an urgency to getting the ideas out of my head and into existence.” The resulting final forms are much larger than her initial experiments (you can see in the portrait we’ve included for scale); their decorative artifacts include small snail shells, corkscrews, checkerboards, spirals and other geometric and abstract forms. And though they weren’t meant for anything in particular, they’ve found a home in an exhibition at Johnson’s Melbourne gallery, Sophie Gannon, on view through July 11.