To celebrate the launch of our special collaboration with local artist Amy Leeworthy, we spent a morning with her in her studio on the Mornington Peninsula, surrounded by bush and birdsong. Here, she has found space for her work, a quiet place in which to build her sculptural works. Vases, incense holders, cups and vessels: her pieces are as much objects for ritual as they are artworks.
We spoke with Amy, to learn more about how she developed her practice, and what “living well” means to her.
Can you tell us a little bit about where you live and work, and what these places mean to you?
I live on the Mornington Peninsula/Boon Wurrung Country. There’s a bungalow at the back of my house, which I use as my studio. It's a very quiet and peaceful place looking over gumtrees, and a family of kookaburras are often hanging around. The space is just for me, but sometimes other friends will pop by and spend a day working alongside me, which I love as it can be quite an isolating job!
Being close to nature is really important to me. I moved back down the coast so that my kids could grow up alongside the bush and the beach. We pretty much have an open house policy for all wildlife around here. Rosellas have nested in the roof. A couple of nights ago we saw a mumma possum piggybacking two babies along my windowsill and more recently, a cockatoo has been tapping on my kitchen window to say hello. There are lots of kangaroos that live on the hill, which pop in to say hello too. When we first moved into this house, it was hiving bees and full of honeycomb!
When and how did you first come to work with clay?
When I was around eight or nine I started attending a ceramics class after school at a local community centre. I think I was the only person under sixty. The teacher introduced me to a wide variety of clay bodies and built up my confidence to make large-scale pieces. I learnt some essential hand-building techniques in these classes and discovered that the process of sculpting forms felt quite intuitive to me. I began to bring home a lot of large pieces that would find homes in our house. Among them was a dragon, a life-sized head and bust of a man, bird baths and garden statues, and finally a torso and head of Ramesses II, a pharaoh half my size.
Between the community centre lessons and my current practice, I had a fairly long break from clay. I always continued to make things, but my interest shifted to painting and drawing, sculpture, video, animation and photography, and returned only recently. In 2015 I attended a six-week night course at Northcote Pottery in Melbourne, which set me up with the basics of centring clay and pulling up small forms on the wheel. It all felt pretty wobbly initially, but by the fourth or fifth class, something had started to click.
The rest I owe to Youtube and trial and error. I was given a pottery wheel for my birthday from my then-partner, and spent my spare moments attempting to master it. At that time, my son was a toddler, and I would put him down for a nap and race out to get an hour or so of wheel time before he woke up. Bit by bit, I managed to throw larger forms on the wheel and gain confidence in my skills.
How do you like to work, do you set a routine or take each day as it comes?
I normally let my energy dictate my work day. If things are going well, I like to start my day with a yoga class, which helps me feel centred and ready to work. But ultimately, the projects I have on the go will impact my routine too.
Do you feel the style of your work has changed over time?
Yes, definitely. I feel like everything will impact your work, whether it’s the people you’re spending time with or the places you’re going. I know that my style will keep evolving, but I think there is a stylistic throughline that identifies my work as my own.
What colours do you feel drawn to at the moment?
I made a glaze that I’m in love with; it’s blue with a hint of mauve. It’s always a bit unpredictable when making glazes because even though you have an intention, you never really know what you’re going to get. I want to glaze everything in that colour at the moment
I’m also obsessed with green - all types - whether it’s forest, neon or muted greens. I love them all.
What does “living well” mean to you?
Freedom is a big part of it. To be able to give my body what it needs at the moment. Whether it’s work or exercise or food or being with my kids, it’s really about being able to live on your own terms. It’s a huge privilege and something I value so much more than money or possessions. I was chatting to another artist friend the other day when I was literally crying on my clay - and we wondered how it would be to turn up to a job and have to bottle that up. I’m definitely not built for an office job!
Lastly, what are your dreams for the season ahead?
Most of my seasonal dreams are related to my garden at the moment. I’m trying to find the right moment to put in my dahlias, and have big hopes for my summer veggie patch. It would be nice to get away for a while, maybe up north, somewhere that allows me the space to reset and come back with fresh ideas.
Photographed by Elise Scott