Handmade in the Everyday Home

Elisa Bartels Sideboard

Above is a photo of my sideboard containing crockery that I use on a daily basis. Most of it has been handmade by myself (I still have my very first bowl)  or by people I know and admire. Every time I hold a piece I am transported back to a place or I see the face of someone with whom I have made a connection. That piece of pottery is the thread that binds me to those moments in my life. I consider myself lucky to have entered into the world of the handmade and as time passes its importance in my everyday life becomes more ingrained and vital.

Cups and bowls by Elisa Batels, side plates by David Edmonds

Glasses and bowls by Elisa Bartels; side plates by David Edmonds

When friends come for dinner I notice how they are drawn to certain plates or bowls. They are always a conversation starter. There is a natural affinity that we humans have for the handmade. Unlike art which can seem like an intimidating, esoteric club whose membership is difficult to attain; the artisan product has a glorious humbleness, with all it’s imperfections, with which we can all relate and which seems to put people at ease. I know of no factory made item which has the same effect.

Front: Bowls by David Edmonds; behind: Bowls by Elisa Bartels

Front: Bowls by David Edmonds; behind: Bowls by Elisa Bartels

There are still a few factory made cups in my cupboard but they never get a mention; they are never inspected or admired. Slowly, slowly I will replace them all with handmade. I look forward to the coming months when there will be studio Christmas sales and various TAFEs will host their end of year exhibitions and sales. I will go along and see where my sight and touch leads me. There I will find more little beauties to take home for my family and I to use everyday.

Plates by David Edmonds; Orange plate by Trish McNeil.

Plates by David Edmonds; Orange plate by Trish McNeil.

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Opening Night of Insitu @ 1 O’Connell Street, Sydney

Who are you?, I hear you saying as you read this post. Yes, gentle readers, it has been a while since my fingers tapped across the keyboard. Instead my fingers have been busy constructing my next floating mosaic titled “The Spit”.

Back in July Maggie Paradyzs, a talented ceramicist, asked if I’d be interested in participating in a group show at 1 O’Connell Street in September. “Do you think you can get a piece finished by September” she asked; “yes”, I replied with all the optimism of a fool.

I won’t bore you with the trials and tribulations of the last few months. Suffice it to say that ,as always, it was all worth it on opening night which was last Tuesday, 2nd September.

The exhibition is open until 30 September in the foyer of 1 O’Connell Street. It is accessible during business hours and afterwards you can stop for coffee and a meal at Bowery Lane. We had dinner there afterwards and the food shone. Fresh ingredients treated respectfully served by friendly and efficient staff.  A perfect ending to a wonderful show.

Thanks Maggie for being the brains behind Insitu and all your hard work over the last few month.

Finally, a big thank you to Liz Illingworth who is the Building Manager at 1 O’Connell Street. Her help in organising this exhibition and her enthusiasm for ceramics and the visual arts is very much appreciated by all the artists who participated in Insitu.

Insitu ceramic exhibition at 1 O'Connell St, Sydney

Opening Night of Insitu

Insitu ceramic exhibition at 1 O'Connell St

Carleen Devine; Seagull; porcelain & stoneware; h.24cm w.30 cm

Insitu ceramic exhibition at 1 O'Connell St, Sydney

Cathe Stack; Screen Sketch #3; porcelain, Kauri Pine, sterling silver fixtures, Sycamore backing board; h.50cm w.46cm d.2cm and Screen Sketch #4; ceramic; porcelain, Kauri Pine, sterling silver fixtures, Sycamore backing board; h.50cm w.46cm d.2cm

Insitu ceramic exhibition at 1 O'Connell St, Sydney

Christine MacKinnon; Camouflage Trap; Southern Ice Porcelain, lustre & emu feathers; d.10cm dia.44cm

Opening Night Insitu @ 1 O'Connell St, Sydney

Opening Night Insitu @ 1 O’Connell St, Sydney


Water Auer @ Insitu 1 O'Connell St, Sydney

Walter Auer; Partners (Two Bears); ceramic; h.63cm w.49cm and lo Animale (TShirt & Scarf); ceramic; h.63cm w.55cm

Tony Schlosser @ Insitu

Tony Schlosser; De(con)struction #11; stoneware with oxides; h.66.5cm dia.53cm

Tann Kennedy @ Insitu

Tann Kennedy; Harvest Series III; porcelain on beechwood; h.60cm w.60cm

Sam Perks @ Insitu

Sam Perks; Snowflakes; porcelain & glass; h.60cm w.60cm

Robert Towns @ Insitu

Robert Towns; Crater; handbuilt,mid-fire ceramic; h.23cm dia.40cm

Opening night of Insitu @ 1 O'Connell St, Sydney

Opening night of Insitu @ 1 O’Connell St, Sydney

Margaret Armstrong @ Insitu

Margaret Armstrong; Life’s Game; stoneware & wood; h.84cm w.40cm

Maggie Paradyzs at Insitu

Maggie Paradysz; Hyphae – Midnight; white raku, slips, oxide, dry glazes; h.65cm w.40cm d.40cm

Liz Cashmore at Insitu

Liz Cashmore; Treasured Relic-Tiered Tablet; ceramic, Butt base; h.60cm w.50cm d.15cm

John Curnoe at Insitu

John Curnoe; Where Here; slipcast stoneware construction; h.40cm w.40cm d.210cm

Johanna Hildebrandt at Insitu

Johanna Hildebrandt; Imprints Of The Forest; ceramic, glazes; h.70cm dia.47cm

Jenny Wiggins at Insitu

Jenny Wiggins; Ahuiliztli; wheelformed & altered ceramics; 200cm and Tlaloc; wheelformed & altered ceramics; 200cm


Opening Night @ Insitu

Opening Night @ Insitu

Elisa Bartels at Insitu 1 O'Connell Street, Sydney

Elisa Bartels; The Spit; porcelain, oxide stained, aluminium; h.109.5cm w.148.5cm

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Unearth Your Local Potter – Come and visit me.


Saturday 16 & Sunday 17 August 2014
10am – 4pm

Below is The Australian Ceramics Association press release for this upcoming fantastic event. This year I have decided to take part and open my studio all weekend. Makers, myself included, work away in studios and it can be quite a solitary environment so it’s exciting to be able to open the doors to my world (aka dusty, slightly shambolic, studio) and welcome visitors.

Details of my studio and the many others which are opening can be found at the link on the bottom of the press release.

Looking forward to seeing some old faces and many, many new ones.


Some of the world’s most significant moments have included mud, from the biblical creation of Adam to that famous mind altering festival at Woodstock and although we find ourselves in an age of rapidly advancing technologies, this humble, sticky stuff, continues to inspire and obsess thousands of makers throughout the world who still call themselves ‘potters’.

This August, hundreds of potters across Australia will open their studios to the public over a weekend that promises to be a celebration of clay, creativity and community. The event is hosted by The Australian Ceramics Association (TACA).

According to Shannon Garson, TACA President and an award winning full-time potter, the Australian Ceramics Open Studios is an exciting event that shines a spotlight on Australian ceramics and Australian artists whose primary medium is clay.

“The open studios weekend is an important event for both clay workers and the community. It’s an event that fosters the development, appreciation and recognition of potters and pottery throughout Australia.

Over 130 ceramics studios around the nation have registered for the Australian Ceramics Open Studios – from well-known exhibiting artists to lesser known skilled artisans, from inner city studios to regional pottery groups – so connect with your local studio trail and plan your weekend of mud.

Many artists will offer practical demonstrations and you may even be asked to share a pot of tea from a handmade teapot. There will also be opportunities galore to take home a handmade piece, direct from the maker.

For a full listing of the open studios visit: http;//tinyurl.com/openstudios2014

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It has been a feast….

of publicity for me of late. First the Manly Daily popped me into Thursday lifestyle section; the Paredes Online wrote an article about me  and now I have to send a big fat thank you to Vicki at the Australian Ceramics Association for including me in the latest issue of The Journal of Australian Ceramics. This issue’s theme is Emerging and what a giant pool of gifted people can be seen in its pages. I am so pleased and humbled to be surrounded by such talented folk. You can find your own copy here or search your local newsagency.  It’s worth the pennies – beautiful pictures and great stories of mud and mud folk.


Elisa Bartels in The Journal of Australian Ceramics, Vol 53 No. 2.

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A few months ago I was approached for an interview by Dana who along with her friend Samantha have a blog named Paredes Online. They write about Sydney creatives and their workspaces.  Dana had seen my work on Etsy and was curious to meet me.

Elisa Bartels in Paredes Online

Elisa Bartels in Paredes Online

I was gobsmacked that they wanted to interview me but we have a lovely rainy afternoon together with lots of giggling, drinking coffee and eating biscuits.

Thank you Dana and Samantha for writing such a lovely article about me and my work. It was loads of fun.

Go here to read the article.

PS: Sam, I hope your boyfriend did well in his exams, or was it an assignment which was due?

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When is it too late…

I’m watching a popular cooking show which features contestants battling it out in team challenges, using ingredients from a mystery box to create restaurant quality food and every week 3 of them face an elimination round where at the end one of them hangs up their apron and goes home.

Porcelain, black fired beaker with a leaf imprint, 2014.

Porcelain, black fired beaker with a leaf imprint, 2014.

Time was up for one of the contestants who was a young guy in his late 20s (27 to be precise). A wonderful, humble and ernest person who had the epiphany whilst on the show that becoming a chef was his life path. He said it was the clearest he had ever felt about anything and was excited to have such clarity about his future. Then he uttered words to the effect of “Better late than never, I know I’m starting late in my career but that’s ok.”.

Starting late in a career at 27? What does that mean for me who at an older age has just now discovered where my true passion lies. I’m just as excited as this young guy and putting in a lot of hard work to make my passion and my products into a viable business. In this new millenium when the first world’s population is living longer; are we still viewing age through a past prism?

Elisa Bartels, Large porcelain, blackfired bowl, 2014.

Large porcelain, blackfired bowl, 2014.

In my younger years I didn’t have the clarity that I needed to pursue my dreams. I didn’t have the personality either – I was easily distracted, impetuous and for the most part trying to be someone that didn’t feed my soul. All my experiences, my successes and many failures have led me to this point where I can say to myself, “You are not giving up, you are going to succeed at this and enjoy every part of your chosen path in life. You will enjoy it’s ups and downs; you will reconcile yourself to the sacrifices you have to make to bring this dream to fruition.”

My epiphany came at a much later stage in life than that young man’s but it is just as valid and just as exciting.

Elisa Bartels, Black fired porcelain bowl with silver markings.

Black fired porcelain bowl with silver markings, 2014.

PS: The images for this post are of my latest work. Whilst it may seem like a blatant plug (ok, maybe a little), the fragility of the object and method of firing is incompatible and I’ve had many failures before success arrived. They represent the quiet contemplation and maturity needed to solve the problem so I thought them appropriate for this post.

Blatant Plug: For those of you who have asked when they will be available I’ve just put them into my Etsy store.

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When opportunity knocks…..

A while back my step daughter, Tashie, asked “How did you get to have such an interesting life?”. It was a lovely compliment from one so young and it came on the back of her patiently listening to me tell yet another story from the time I spent working in a cooking school in Umbria, Italy.

Elisa Bartels, 2014, smoke fired porcelain bowl with camellia

Elisa Bartels, 2014, smoke fired porcelain bowl with camellia

I had to take a little time to go back through my life, thinking about all my adventures and how they had come about.  I came to a very simple conclusion. I have said Yes more than no.

Elisa Bartels, 2014, smoke fired porcelain vase filled with natives and exotics

Elisa Bartels, 2014, smoke fired porcelain vase filled with natives and exotics.

I have said Yes to things I had never done before. I have said Yes to people I barely knew who asked for my help. I have said Yes even when my whole mind was wracked by fear.

Elisa Bartels, 2014, smoke fired ceramic pot with succulent.

Elisa Bartels, 2014, smoke fired ceramic pot with succulent.

So I said to Tashie, “Be brave and say Yes as often as you can. Say Yes with confidence and a smile even if your brain is screaming “What the hell are you doing? Shut up!!!” Just keep saying Yes, Yes,Yes and adventures will come. Then if you’re lucky there will come a time when you will be telling a young girl all about your adventures and she will ask, “How did you get to have such an interesting life.””.

PS: I will never say yes to jumping out of a plane which is in perfect working order. Don’t bother asking.




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