Jo Townsend has been a member of the Canberra ceramics community for the past 20+ years. Now her main occupation is making and teaching! We enjoyed a sunny spring afternoon in Jo's studio discovering what inspires her, learning how she develops ideas and exploring the different techniques she applies to her practice.
Jo's ceramic work is deeply rooted in the organic and natural forms she observes around her; the material of clay directing natural sensibilities - moulding to hands, naturally contorting and being shaped by the body. Known for her sculptural pears, Jo has found an ever changing sculptural muse. She explores these ideas through a variety of shapes and designs, including life sized scale and oversized works; curves morphing and suggesting figures, mirrored by the natural curves of the pear.
Jo makes what she enjoys making and this joy carries clearly into the final product - engaging, fun and thoughtful.
Using glaze, surface markings, textures, and coloured clay bodies, Jo makes work that speaks of land, water, wind and earth. Her pieces invoke a sense of liveliness, energy and calm as if easily commanded by Jo.
Sculptural and functional, Jo's work is inviting and draws the viewer to touch and explore the clay. Her pieces evoke beauty and and command usability, entwined within the natural material.
Jo will be facilitating a Ceramic Plate Workshop at Workshop POP.
This beginner-friendly workshop will teach you how to make small plates of clay slabs and decorate them with coloured slips (liquid clays). You will learn about how to manage the clay and explore several different techniques for decorating your dishes.
We asked Jo questions to learn more about what makes her tick!
How long have you been making ceramics?
I have been making ceramics for more than 20 years. For the last five years I have been lucky enough to make it my main occupation, with the time to really develop my ideas, designs and skills.
Why is local shopping important to you?
By shopping local you can get something unique as well as the warm inner glow of supporting your community. Large stores sell the same things all over the country, only a local independent store can offer you goods made by a small scale local maker. It’s a lovely personal shopping experience.
What is your favourite part about being in the studio?
Everything really, except the cleaning and to a lesser extent glazing. I only make things I enjoy making. I want that lightness and joy to be a part of my work. The wonderful thing about clay is the endless possibilities with the same materials you can make large robust sculptures, functional items that are artworks to use everyday and delicate porcelain jewellery to name but a few.
How do you get into a state of “flow”?
I always have many more ideas than time. My journal comes with me when I leave the studio. I can sketch and scribble in an idle moment exploring and developing ideas and forms options as well as resolving design problems. This means I am ready to roll when I open the studio door.
What is your favourite spot in Canberra?
So many lovely spots, we are lucky to live in such a beautiful place. You don’t have to go far to find open green spaces and lovely vistas, without crowded of people. At the risk of sounding trite I love being at home, the house, the garden, the studio are my sanctuaries.
What is your favourite part of teaching and passing on skills to others?
There is a great joy in watching people overcome their obstacles and grow in delight with their skills. I also find that teaching someone else something really clarifies it in your own head. You need to pack it and understand it forwards and backwards so you can untangle it for someone else.
You can shop a range of Jo's ceramic works at Shop POP or book in to a class with Jo at Workshop POP