Tara Burke’s Sydney ceramics studio sits cozy among a rabbit warren of other inspired creatives in a warehouse space in Alexandria – the city’s industrial inner east. Huddled against the back wall, Tara’s studio greets you with shelves and benches piled high with her earthen work.
Plants drape about, clay is beaten and pressed, a pottery wheel spins and somewhere between splattering mud and Tara’s quiet and friendly chatter, a beautiful process takes place – a piece, perhaps a vase or bowl, takes shape.
Both glazed and matte, gritty and smooth, functional and not so functional, some with Tara’s signature thin rounded handles and some with a playful touch of gold, Tara’s ceramics are earthy, light and quirky. Much like Tara herself. Between university and study, bush walking, camping and spending time at the beach, this Australian creative can be found here, getting her hands dirty, inviting balance and a sense of process into her busy city life and happily working on her craft.
How did you become a ceramicist?
I never actually set out to become a ceramicist! It sort of happened by accident. I’d spent a few years floating between different degrees at university, when I decided to switch to Sydney College of the Arts and study ceramics formally. I’d taken throwing lessons when I lived in Melbourne and loved it, but felt that there was more to ceramics than the wheel. Studying ceramics at SCA gave me the time and space to experiment with the material, which was so crucial. I was using my personal Instagram account to upload pictures of whatever I was making, which is how my first exhibition came about. It all sort of happened from there – I feel very lucky!
What is your studio environment like and how does it play a part in your work?
I work in a wonderful studio called “The Nest Creative Space.” I’m surrounded by so many talented makers and artists, from jewelers to costume designers, painters, fashion and textile designers, documentary makers, photographers, and even a florist! I also share the space with two other super talented ceramicists. The studio is an endless source of inspiration – I’m so grateful to be part of it.
Besides being a ceramicist, you are also a full-time student. How do you successfully divide your time between ceramics and study to find a work/life balance?
I’m not sure that I’ve achieved a healthy work/life balance, but thankfully I love everything that I do so it’s a bit easier to push through the (very) late nights!
I think ceramics balance out my study in a way.
I’m studying law, so it’s quite intense and involves a lot of reading and writing. It’s nice then to come into my studio and get my hands dirty – a bit of an outlet I suppose.
What is one thing that you know about ceramics now that you wish you knew when you started?
Never glaze when you’re hungry.
Which part of the ceramic making process do you enjoy the most and why?
Definitely the initial hand building. Turning a ball of clay into an object is so satisfying.
Where do you find innovation and inspiration for your craft?
My work is particularly inspired by natural environments, which is translated through textures.
I like to exploit the tactility of the material by contrasting raw and rough stoneware surfaces with impossibly smooth, white porcelains.
These surfaces are reflective of the incredibly diverse Australian environments – from rough and rocky bush land, to white sandy beaches, to the Red Centre.
Who is someone in the creative world that you admire?
Claire Johnson is an incredibly talented painter and ceramicist in Sydney who I’ve been collaborating with recently. She has a very uninhibited and playful approach to her work, which I really admire.