The Award-Winning Student Ceramicist Suspending Time In Clay

2 weeks ago

‘Art has always been a release for me,’ explains Bell Carver. ‘I find myself in a state of flow that I don’t experience anywhere else.’

During Melbourne’s sweeping lockdowns last year, the young ceramicist identified a similar continuity running through her time, where hours melted into days and weeks became indistinguishable from months. Capturing this perfect unity between time and space became the focus of her most recent body of work – a series of ceramic sculptures for which she won the inaugural Shelley Simpson Ceramics Prize, a new award for emerging student practitioners, named after the founder of iconic Australian ceramics brand Mud Australia! As the award’s inaugural recipient, Bell will receive $ 10,000 in prize money, and a 3-month paid internship at Mud Australia.

‘Prior to last year, my work was mostly functional and wheel-thrown,’ she says. ‘I loved making cups and bowls and was beginning to experiment with how glazes could change the finish of a piece.’ Now, Bell’s organic, fluid sculptures sit firmly on the conceptual side of the medium.

Two hemispheres of bone-coloured clay are joined at the edge, crossing over each other like a three-dimensional Venn diagram. This precisely plotted shape suspends the action of separation in a single porcelain moment, like a spliced orange frozen in time before the segments could break apart completely. Bell chose this curious form perfectly balanced between organic and geometric to represent the passage of time in 2020 – simultaneously cleaved and conjoined.

When the pandemic hit, access to the RMIT studios was not possible, and Bell was forced to work at home, where her studio set-up was sparse. But her creativity adapted well to the whittled field of available materials. She began improvising without a wheel, experimenting with new techniques like sculpture and hand-building. The resulting smooth, spherical shapes now represent a new direction for her practice.

Winning this inaugural prize means that Bell can now make some studio updates!  ‘The prize money means that I now have the opportunity to create a more useable studio space by purchasing some equipment, such as a pottery wheel and maybe a small kiln,’ she says. The new beginnings of a self-sufficient practice!

Keep up to date with Bell’s works on Instagram here.

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