It is hard to reconcile the simple elegance of Cecily Willis’s studio ceramics with the origins of her passion for clay. ‘When I was about six or seven. Mum and Dad had friends with a farm, and one of my favourite pastimes was running down to their fields and standing barefoot in the cow pats – such a great oozy feeling.’ From there, her love of the ‘tactile’ combined with culinary interests: she went on to produce a carefully decorative plate of rum balls: mud, convincingly rolled in a coating of crumbed chook food. ‘My little brother ate most of them – I got into terrible trouble.’
Such humble – you could hazard quintessentially Australian – beginnings evolved into a fascination with Japanese culture and design, particularly tableware and functional ceramics, which informs her studio practice to this day. ‘There’s a simplicity of form and style in Japanese design that I just love. It applies to so much of Japanese culture – the way food is presented, the thought that goes into the balance, the form, the colour. I take a more contemporary approach to this simplicity.’
But for all her creative success, she is loath to transform her ‘passionate hobby’ into a commercial venture. ‘I don’t want to be compelled to create, or driven by money’. For now, she’s happy potting and tutoring at the Tactile Arts ceramics studio, where she teaches the popular Throwing on the Wheel workshops, inspiring new generations of potential potters to appreciate the aesthetics of handmade pottery: the fusion of the excitement of fire with the oozy delights of mud.
Please visit www.tactilearts.org.au for details of upcoming workshops, or contact Tactile Arts on 08 8981 6616 or email@example.com
Cecily is currently represented by Paul Johnstone Gallery in Darwin.
Text taken from Fire and Mud by Lois Murphy from Darwin Life, February 2013.