Ceramicist Guy Ringwood has a Zen approach to his art

Sharing another article published in the first issue of Seima Flow magazine before the second issue comes out. Guy is a talented ceramicist and a thoughtful interviewee – it was great fun to tour his studio and learn about his approach to his craft.

You can’t hurry pottery even when you want to. Fortunately, taking it slow is paying off for ceramicist Guy Ringwood.

To say that nothing happens quickly when you’re a potter is to underestimate how long pottery can take. Fortunately, potters tend to be pretty Zen kind of people. Just ask ceramicist Guy Ringwood.

“You really get into a meditative state when you’re throwing clay,” Guy says, sitting in the studio he’s built in his mum’s suburban backyard. “Probably even more so for the big things than the small ones, because you really can’t concentrate on anything else.”

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Guy in his studio. Photo: Andre Castellucci.

The ‘big things’ are the massive porcelain pots that Guy likes to create, whereas the ‘small ones’ are the bowls he produces to make his work accessible for a wider audience. He also creates a range of other vessels, such as bottles and vases.

“Once you’re in that zone and you’ve got some steam going, it’s ridiculous what you can get done in a day,” he says.

“Yet if I’m working on a large piece, you have to slow everything down. Instead of taking five minutes to throw a piece you have to take 20 minutes, maybe an hour if it’s big enough. Then it takes two months for it to dry, maybe two days for it to fire properly.”

And if one part of the process is out, it can be disastrous.

“If you haven’t prepped the clay properly, if you put it on the wheel and it’s got an air bubble in the very bottom of it, you’ll end up with 10 kilos of clay on the floor. But there can be a whole bunch of things wrong. It could even be emotional, if you’re having a bad day. Then you just have to step away.”

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Guy originally went to art school to become a painter, but getting his hands on the wheel during ceramics class changed that. In ceramics, he found an art form that brought together his love of art and science, concept and theory, working with his hands and his DIY ethos. He was hooked.

“I’ve always liked figuring things out for myself. My dad taught me how to pull a motorbike engine apart when I was 12. With ceramics, you just have to do it. There’s no way you can be a good thrower without practicing throwing.”

After university, Guy spent a couple of years at the Jam Factory, and formed ILK Ceramics with some graduate friends to exhibit together on a semi-regular basis.

Yet despite practising ceramics for some 14 years, Guy considers himself at the start of his career. Partly that’s from having to fit around a full-time bar tender job, and the time it’s taken to build the studio. All that will soon change, though, as he’s planning to focus on pottery full time. “I’m trying to put myself into a position where I’m not giving myself any choice but to do this,” he says.

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Next on his agenda though, is finishing off a range of products to sell at local markets and building a kiln onto his studio so he doesn’t have to wait long periods to use other people’s.

“I was dreaming about building the kiln last night, it went from the backyard to a sprawling 10 acres in the Hills.” A premonition? “Eventually, I do have a much larger plan. I’d like to outgrow this studio and get a warehouse somewhere… the Hills would be amazing.”

For now, it’s bowls that are drawing him. “A bowl is the most crucial shape. It’s two hands together, it’s a carrier of everything. I’ve always been drawn to bowls for that reason. You can do anything in a bowl. You can eat a steak in it if you want.”

Visit Guy’s blog, here.

First published in Seima’s Flow magazine.

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