Local ceramicists Parma Keft (on left) and Ann Strekfuss have collaborated to produce ‘CLAY naturally’, a stunning exhibition opening Sunday 28th May at the Nexus Gallery in Bellingen. The inspiration for this exhibition’s theme came to Ann and Parma during one of their regular walks on Sawtell Beach. “The works presented in ‘CLAY naturally’ are a reflection of how our coastal environment greatly influences our creative processes, echoed in ceramic form, surface treatment, colour, glaze and texture. We never fail to collect more than a few interesting ‘shoreline finds’ offered up by the ocean – pieces of broken shell with interesting texture and colour, the tactile quality of pebbles of differing shapes and contours, driftwood showing the patina of time and the eroding effects of water, sand and sun – all are such a rich source of visual inspiration and so essential to our creative processes,” says Parma. Their works include hand built and thrown works in a range of clays, glazes and firing techniques. “I have employed wood fire, Raku, horse hair Raku and dry glazed to produce the works for CLAY naturally,” says Ann.
Ann and Parma have shared a lifelong affinity with the arts. Ann worked as the co-ordinator of the Bellingen Neighbourhood Centre in 1981 and it was during this time that the The Bellingen Arts Council was formed. In 1983 she established Tapalinga Rugs with weaver Diana Conroy, producing individually designed hand spun floor rugs. “We exhibited the rugs at a fantastic show in the Bellingen Old Council Chambers, the first exhibition the newly formed Arts Council organised,” says Ann.
Ann began her pottery practice in 1996 by completing a certificate course at Coffs Harbour TAFE. “I now work from my home studio and pottery is my passion,” says Ann. Parma grew up in a family of artists, and was always surrounded by a varied range of styles including drawing, painting, and sculpture, utilising differing mediums of artistic expression. “I was previously involved in silk painting and love the rich and vibrant colour palette it offers, however I have always had an underlying passion for ceramics,” says Parma.
Parma and Ann were founding members of Coastal ClayMakers Inc in 2003. This regional group of potters meet regularly to bring potters of renown to Coffs Harbour to conduct workshops. Some of the well known and well respected Australian ceramic artists that have run workshops for the groups include Marea Gazzard, Peter Rushforth (sadly both now deceased), Vic Greenaway, Greg Daly, Paul Davis, Sandy Lockwood, Jane Annois, Mitsuo Shoji, and of course our very own John Tuckwell and Gloria Malone. The presenters assist potters, who mostly work alone, to learn about new processes and to hear about the latest developments in ceramic practice. Both artists agree that the numerous talented and inspiring workshop presenters Coastal Claymakers has hosted over the past 14 years have influenced their work greatly.
Parma hand builds, mostly utilising porcelain or raku clay bodies. “I enjoy monoprinting the clay surface with underglaze colours in a variety of mainly abstract designs – after forming, some works are highly burnished, while others are put through the raku glaze firing process which imparts a crackle and smoked finish,” says Parma.
Ann also loves Raku, a process in which the work is removed from the kiln at bright red heat and subjected to post-firing reduction (or smoking) by being placed in containers of combustible materials, which blackens raw clay and causes crazing in the glaze surface. “Raku is an exciting process with immediate results and lately horse hair Raku has been added to my repertoire. I enjoy the Raku process as it is done with a friend. Parma and I have held many successful (and fun) Raku days together. It is a great privelege to work with Parma, whose friendship and artistic practice inspire me,” says Ann.
Both artists live outside the Bellingen Shire but share a real love of Bellingen. “Bellingen has such a rich culture of creativity, with many galleries and outlets for local and visiting artists to exhibit their work, providing everyone an opportunity to view and appreciate the varied styles of the numerous artists and craftspeople,” says Parma. But what is really obvious is Ann and Parma’s affection for each other and their joy in creating this collaborative exhibition. “I consider it is a real privelege to work in collaboration with a great friend and respected artist such as Ann, and the culmination of our months of work in the presentation of ‘CLAY naturally’, is at the same time both nerve-wracking and exhilarating,” says Parma.
‘CLAY naturally’ is a stunning collection of works from two very talented artists. “Ceramics is definitely an emotional and physical journey- always challenging, sometimes disappointing, but nevertheless continually motivating and can ultimately be very rewarding,” says Parma. Don’t miss their opening Sunday 28th May, 3 pm at the Nexus Gallery.