|ceramic artist yen at SMALLpieces|
At uni I briefly dabbled in pottery. I think I lasted about two classes before my inability to convert a lump of clay into anything other than a less than attractive lump of clay prompted me to rethink what my true 'artistic calling' was and I never returned. Fortunately Yen Yen Lo had a very different experience and found she was a natural when it came to working with clay and illustrating. A graphic designer by day, Yen has found clay enables a more tactile way of working with her hands and has developed a distinctive style. Creating organic shaped bowls and vessels, and tiny birds, perhaps the most striking aspect of Yen's work is the intricate illustrations she carves into the pieces. They're simply beautiful. Based in Melbourne Yen's work can be found in the following places Brunswick Bound Five Boroughs SMALLpieces Sedonia
How would you describe yourself?
Patient, hardworking, skeptical, unassuming, nondescript.
What was your childhood dream?
To be a vet and work in a zoo. I’d also fantasize about being able to talk to animals, clearly I’d read too many Dr Doolittle books!
What led you down your current path?
The need to create with my hands. To make something that didn’t require a computer or an undo button. I am a graphic designer by profession, so much of what I do is digital (which is really great), but I also wanted another creative outlet that required none of the mod cons. I’d always liked clay, so I bought myself a bag of it and started experimenting away. I had been firing my pieces at Northcote Pottery and Emidio, the retail manager took a liking to my rabbit plates. He approached me about displaying them at SMALLpieces, the retail space at Northcote Pottery, and I soon found a niche following that liked decorative, one-off hand built pieces.
What do you love most about what you do?
I love the whole process of pinching out a form to finally decorating it. I draw on the clay using sgrafitto, a technique of scratching through the coloured underglaze to reveal the colour of the clay underneath. It’s quite a cathartic experience and I lose myself in it! I can be as intricate or as simple as I want, depending on how I feel on the day. I love that I don’t have to compromise for anyone but myself.
Where do feel most inspired?
My backyard, the trees and the vegie patch are a magnet for birds and insects. It’s perfect for studying them.
At night in bed, when it’s all dark and quiet, my mind starts wandering and I start thinking of possibilities.
Who do you admire?
People who have prevailed over and survived great personal conflicts or tragedies in their lives. I admire their strength and determination to keep going.
What challenges have you had to overcome?
I’m still trying to overcome them! There are many variables in pottery, it is chemistry and art combined, I’ll be ninety by the time I grasp them, if at all.
What's been a 'pinch yourself' moment?
When orders were still coming in, one day before Christmas from Sedonia.
What are your top creative resources?
Fiona Hall and her exquisite botanical sculptures made from humble sardine cans.
Pascale Palun, her house and her wire lampshades are to die for.
Anna-Wili Highfield and her beautiful animals she makes from paper sculptures.
What is your idea of happiness?
Good health and a loving family.
More bird sculptures and more experimenting with red iron oxide, my current obsession.
When the weekend rolls around what do you love to:
Read– Funny emails from my sisters, recipes, inane tidbits in the papers.
Watch- Days of our Lives…just joking!
Cook- Anything that’s left in the fridge.
Create- My own little zine.
Listen to- Gillian Welch.
Dream about- Moving to the country, having my own studio space.
Look forward to- Fired pieces on the kiln shelf, the bakery Sugardough near Northcote Pottery.