2010—onwards: Interview with Grace Brown
Photography by Pier Carthew
Ceramics by Oh Hey Grace
Styling by Stefanie Breschi
Grace Brown is the owner of Oh Hey Grace, a Melbourne-based studio creating a mix of functional and sculptural pieces using a combination of wheel-thrown and hand-building techniques. Influenced by geometry, contrasting textures, architectural forms and the work of M.C. Escher, her work is part functional ware and part Utopian cityscapes with labyrinth-like buildings that feature layers of geometric stairwells, sharp lines, smooth adobe domes and archways.
Hello, what is your name, background and how did you end up doing what you do?
Grace Brown: Hey! My name is Grace and I create a mix of ceramic sculptures and functional pieces under the label 'Oh Hey Grace'. I have a background in Fashion Design, however, I started a gradual shift towards ceramics in 2015. Originally I worked in fashion because I loved making things people interacted with, however after a few years in the industry I was using my hands less and less. I loved the shift to working with clay and it allowed me to explore the shapes I was drawn to in more detail. As of 2022, I work primarily with clay and love exploring shape and form in my work, specifically with an architectural focus.
What is your connection to the materials you work with, what do they do for you that others don’t?
GB: I grew up in a farming community so much of my time growing up was spent working with soil, livestock, and agriculture. When I work on a sculpture I love the process of turning clay from the earth into a three-dimensional form. Back when I worked in fashion, so much of the materials I worked with came to me finished; I had no connection to how they were woven or made. Working with clay, it's a process that I'm able to control from start to finish all the way from working with a lump of clay to mixing glaze materials for the finished piece.
Is there a recurring theme in your work?
GB: A reoccurring theme within my work has been investigating the fragile balance between utopian and dystopian environments and the experiences of those who live within these communities. I'm always asking...who lives here? What is their story? Where is their community?
I'm continuously fascinated with imagined civilisations, lost cities and dystopian futures. Within my work, I aim to transport the viewer to a mysterious, dream-like realm, where labyrinth buildings warp into geometric stairwells, smooth adobe domes, and curved archways.
It's my hope that my pieces allow the viewer to transport themselves to another time, place, or universe, and investigate our deep connection and attachment to our ideas and understanding of ‘home’.
When you hear ‘trust the process’ what comes to mind?
GB: Embrace the whole process—mistakes included. So much of my process is trial and error, particularly when things break or don't survive the firing process (which is often!). I have to remind myself that it's all part of creative life and with highs, also come lows.
If you could be reminded of something every day, what would it be?
GB: Worrying won't change the outcome. Like many people, I have had anxiety since I was a kid so I have to remind myself that everything will pass and not to sweat the small stuff. Worrying about things doesn't change the outcome. But of course, when you're in it that's a different story, and it's hard to see the other side! However, reminding myself that things pass and everything is constantly changing and evolving helps. All things pass, and more quickly if you don't resist it.
What else are you involved with that we might not know about?
GB: When I'm not in the studio, I spend my time teaching students art. I used to teach adults in the evenings but I shifted to working with primary school students a few years ago and haven't looked back. Their imagination is so inspiring and their creativity gives me energy. I do this two days a week and work with students ages 6-12 across all art mediums.
With my own work, I have some new pieces in the pipelines and I'm working on introducing some soft colours to my sculptures soon. Once I'm happy with the results it will be a huge step for me as traditionally I've favoured exploring form and raw natural surfaces rather than glaze exploration. The pieces will be ready to show later in the year as part of a few group exhibitions I have lined up. Watch this space!
Grace made 50 Moor Street, 100 Albert Street and Breese Street by Milieu for our exhibition 2010—onwards: A decade of creative development.
For more of Grace's work and to view her collection visit www.ohheygrace.com.au or follow Grace on Instagram.
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