Artist creates ceramics hands-on with her heritage

Adelaide ceramic artist Connie Augoustinos’s creations reflect the influence of her Greek heritage, and an upcoming solo exhibition at JamFactory will also draw inspiration from her residency on the Aegean island of Skopelos.

May 21, 2019, updated May 21, 2019
Connie Augoustinos at work, with souvenirs from her artist's residency in Greece on the studio wall. Photo: supplied

Connie Augoustinos at work, with souvenirs from her artist's residency in Greece on the studio wall. Photo: supplied

“I think all Greeks are pinchers,” Connie Augoustinos says while sitting in her JamFactory studio. “I used to pinch my grandma and I pinch my boyfriend.

“When I make my vessels, I coil the clay up and pinch it into shape. It just feels natural to me.”

 Augoustinos, 29, creates vases, bowls and various amphorae that are almost Neolithic in nature.

She says that while studying a Bachelor of Visual Art at the University of South Australia, she found herself in majoring in ceramics because she feels most comfortable in the realm of the physical touch. 

“Texture has always been something I’m lured to – it just feels natural to me.”

Some of Connie Augoustinos’s ceramic creations.

When creating her pottery, Augoustinos uses a hand-coiling pinching technique that she says enables her to push the clay to its limits.

“There are other ways of building where you’re more gentle or you’ll scrape back with tools, but using a lot of tools doesn’t really feel natural to me.

The placement, attachment and pinch of each coil of clay used to build my vessels helps weave the past and present.”

Augoustinos coils out the groggy clay into long strips, then places these coils at the base of the impending vessel and pulls the material up and into place.

She likes spontaneity – in and out of art – and the technique means she doesn’t feel bound to exact lines or shapes, but instead has trust in the pinch of her fingers.

“I don’t do the traditional technique. I’m not good at sticking to a plan, and in all senses of my life I’m not that type of person.

“My work is an extension of me, so why should it be structured?”

Augoustinos’s lineage can be traced back to the Mediterranean, as both sides of her family are Greek, and this has also had a subconscious influence on her art practice.

“Being at university was really hard for me because I had to start with a concept,” she says.

“But … the more I was making the more I started noticing similarities. That was when I noticed my work started to look ancient.”

Above her desk is a wall covered with shells, postcards and glossy photographs depicting the Aegean island of Skopelos. She travelled to Greece last July to complete an artist’s residency focussed on ceramics, and her solo exhibition at JamFactory from July 26 until September 22 will draw on that experience and the influence it had on her work.

Augoustinos says this will include playing with a Mother of Pearl gradient. She was also inspired by the natural palette of the island’s landscape: pale greys, blues and greens.

Like most Grecians, she feels the pull of the ocean and says the water has a firm grip on her artistic identity.

“I’m obsessed with shells – some of those are from Greece – and I hope it doesn’t come out in a way that isn’t too obvious.”

While she enjoys crafting small objects, which often offer more room for experimentation, for her solo exhibition she plans to create large bowls because they are a symbol of generosity.

Floral arrangement was made in collaboration with Rebecca Trevitt from Ponder Posy.

The long vases (pictured above) for which she is also known are representative of the strong women in Augoustinos’s life.

“They’re a bit more human – anthropomorphic.

“It connects me to the women in my family who have come before me; to place; and, more broadly, to the women who came before us all; the forgotten notion of the female deity and, even further, to the wonder and beauty of nature.”

Connie Augoustinos stocks her ceramics at JamFactory Craft and Design, South Seas Trading and Worth Gallery, and The Cold Press in the UK. You can read more on her website.

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