Monday, 8 October 2012

profile toni park - ceramic artist.

ceramic artist toni park
I was first drawn to the work of the very talented Toni Park after spying her beautiful pillowy ceramic clouds. Impossibly delicate and plump, they're my idea of 'fine art'. Looking to reignite some childhood fun and 'play with mud' Toni gravitated towards ceramics ten years ago and has carved a distinct style and loyal following. Taking time out to reflect on her craft, Toni's insight into the challenges and triumphs in forging a career as an artist is inspiring. You can get yourself a cloud, and her other current pieces here.

How would you describe yourself?
Funny,loud,friendly,thoughtful creative.

What was your childhood dream?
Like most kids, I had 37,603 hopes and dreams and counting, still do. But, if I had to pick one, I wanted to be a secretary (Ha! So funny.Girl-child of the 70s!)so that I could always be with my Dad in his office and have access to unlimited stationery. Dads and stationery supplies will always be important!

What led you down your current path?
I wish I had just one path. It always feels like I have at least 5 and they are all quite exciting. No complaints, but it makes for tough decisions sometimes. How did I end up in ceramics? In 2002 I decided that having a career (in I.T.) was too “real” (read: grown-up) and I wasn’t as happy or fulfilled as I could be in life.

I thought back to things that I had enjoyed in the past, moments where I had been blissfully happy. Very quickly I remembered my high-school arts classes, particularly painting and clay. I really have always wanted to work with my hands.

I researched how and where I could study and decided on the Adv. Diploma of Ceramics at the Southbank Institute, Brisbane. It was an intensive couple of years where I could completely immerse myself in the mud. We all learned so much so quickly.

What do you love most about what you do?
I adore so many things about making.I love the idea that pieces of my work can be enjoyed in homes around the world. Maybe that sounds a bit egotistical or voyeuristic but I mean it sincerely. I like the idea that cups of tea, bowls of soup and children’s bedroom walls share a quiet and somewhat unknown connection.

Where do feel most inspired?
Walking always makes me feel inspired. I think that’s pretty common to a lot of people. There’s something about the fresh air and chirpy birds that just clears out the cobwebs and reminds you how special life is. Also in bed. When I am drifting off to sleep or just waking up I am often hit with a big idea, so I have a trusty sketchbook under my pillow.
And, obviously, the studio. It’s a fantastic shared space, leased from Metro Arts, and the creativity seems to multiply according to the number of lovely occupants.

Who do you admire?
I admire the little people, everyday people. If you get talking to anyone you find that they (we) all have stories and struggles and they all tread their own path.One of my dearest friends has lived through many difficult and painful experiences and she continues to flourish, never letting anything beat her down. I admire her strength of spirit. She is an inspiration to me.

Work wise, I admire Sharon Muir. She is an awesome friend. But on a professional and creative level I am in awe of her. She has such a cheeky imagination, strong personal style, a wicked dedication to perfection and teeny tiny hands that work magic in clay. She inspires me to be better.

What challenges have you had to overcome?
Challenges come, you face them, solve them (hopefully), move forward and then the next one presents itself. Luckily, I like a challenge and am a bit partial to problem solving.

Firstly, it was recognizing that ceramics does not work well in your lounge room. I know, clever girl, so finding a studio space in the inner-city Brisbane area was the challenge. Thanks to Metro Arts, I now share a fantastic studio in Norman Park.

Then it was raising the funds to buy a kiln – they are not cheap, to say the least. And thanks to sales from my work and some generous birthday donations I now have a kiln which makes work so much easier and faster. I don’t have to beg borrow and steal from friends any longer.

To be honest, for most of us, it is hard to make a living from art alone. My longest struggle has been finding the balance between achieving the life that I want and still being able to work in clay.

I can clearly see there has been progression over the last couple of years where I have been able to work more in clay and less in an office – but "full-time studio artist" is still on the horizon and not yet in reach.
                                          Image of Cloud

What's been a 'pinch yourself' moment?
When I first started to “put myself out there”, like all insecure artists, I was not sure how the work would be received. Friends and family are always so supportive, which is a beautiful thing, but sometimes you need validation from a stranger to believe it…

So, when Kim Wallace at Udessi gallery took me on as fledgling artist I was very bolstered by her support. Which, in turn, gave me more confidence.

When I was then featured on Design*Sponge and in Home Beautiful magazine I really felt that my work had received a “seal of approval”. What can I say? This girl needs validation. Now I’m a bit less insecure.

What are your top creative resources?
The first four that came to mind are:  
The Journal of Australian Ceramics  

iPhone AppDiscovr Music – You can search for a band you like and then it creates a visual web of related / similar suggestions from which you can delve deeper.  

Zenhabits – A blog by Leo Babauta.I like his writing style and openness. He makes me believe that I can apply some simple very necessary Zen habits to my life.  

Notemaker - For a stationery fix, it just inspires me!

What is your idea of happiness?
Friends, al-fresco dinner, wine, conversation until the wee hours of the morning. A sure-fire recipe for good times.

What's next?
Lights – I’m working on some porcelain light fittings – mostly wall-hanging – at the moment. I am hoping to have some ready for Artisan’s Cherish Christmas show.

Mugs – I have decided that there are no mugs big enough in this world – well, none that are just right for me – so I’m gonna fix that and have started to make enormous but lightweight mugs to help my search for the world’s best cup/mug of tea!

Studio Pop-Up Store – the resident artists of the Metro Arts Studio are having an end of year bash / sale / event / extravaganza! It will be a good opportunity to have a tour of the studio and meet the artists whose work will also be available for purchase. Everyone is invited: 

Saturday 17th November 2012
Time:10:00am - 4:00pm
Location: Metro Arts,97 Wynnum Road, Norman Park

When the weekend rolls around what do you love to:
Read – Time Out, see what’s on in my beautiful little town of Brissy.

Watch - I love to watch people and get lost in my imagination.

Cook - Pikelets, the best contribution to morning-tea since long before cupcakes!

Create - Most weekends are spent in the studio, it’s not work, it’s fun, and all my friends are there.

Listen to - Currently, anything from Dizzy Gillespie to E-603. It’s a little frenetic…

Dream about - Travel which I cannot stress enough. When I have the time and money it is always top of my list.

Look forward to - Lazy mornings. I usually start at 5am or 6am so on Sundays I laze til 9am and feel like I have been on holiday…