Bespoke Ceramic Artisan Aleisa Byfield is making her mark on the local creative scene. She chats to FOCUS about her love of the art …
What is your connection to the Greater Port Macquarie area?
I moved to Port Macquarie over 20 years ago from Wagga Wagga, shortly after my partner moved here for his work. Other than holidaying abroad and living in the UK for a few years, I have called Port Macquarie home ever since.
When did you become interested in ceramic arts, and how did you hone in on this passion and develop your skills?
I worked as a Legal Secretary/Assistant for many years and also in volunteer organisations and a variety of not-for-profit /helping organisations both here and in the UK. Although I gained highly valuable skills and experience, I knew in my heart that I needed to spend my time doing something more meaningful for me which was in line with my purpose and allowed me freedom, flexibility and creative expression which was authentic to me.
Although I didn’t officially start my ceramics business until early 2016, I had spent the previous couple of years learning and experimenting at the Port Macquarie Art & Craft Centre, where there weren’t any ceramic classes, but members all shared their knowledge and experience with one another. I had a toy pottery wheel as a small child and felt the burning desire to get back on the wheel and create something using the tactile medium of clay. Before long, I was throwing on the wheel, had purchased my own to use at home and was experimenting with other methods of coiling, handbuilding, pinching and slab building.
Inspired by the fragile, seductive and receptive nature of clay, I immersed myself in furthering my knowledge and relishing in the endless possibilities of ceramics, particularly for self exploration and expression. I started selling my work to family and friends and wanted to see where this creative journey could take me, so I have been exploring different ways of selling my wares and gaining exposure, from wholesaling to selling at markets.
I am also a passionate volunteer in Crisis Support, so creating has provided me with a therapeutic outlet to help me deal with such challenging, but rewarding, experiences.
How does our beautiful region influence your work?
I am continually mesmerised by the magnificence, diversity and unpredictability of the textures, patterns and colours of the coastal environment and hinterland of the Mid North Coast. My work emulates the fragility, diversity and imperfections found throughout nature, as I see beauty in the flaws, scars and imperfections that are often overlooked. I regularly collect and re-purpose discarded flora and other remnants from nature to be incorporated into my work.
What inspires you to create?
Nature is where most of my inspiration comes from, but it can also come from everyday objects and materials – from hessian to string. I am also hugely influenced by Japanese pottery, values and way of life. I love texture, design, timber and textiles and attempt to bring these sources of inspiration into my work in both texturising the clay itself and in the glazes or surface treatments I use. I adore the tactile nature of clay and prefer work that is raw, fractured and individual – I have a huge fear of the mundane and of conformity!
I enjoy the freedom of using a variety of clay bodies, decoration processes, techniques and firing temperatures and have a relentless curiosity with experimentation and testing the limits. So, sometimes new creations are born from “happy accidents”. My intuitive process is of course bigger than me, so when inspiration strikes I try to just allow what needs to be expressed – which may not be what I had planned but may actually be better than I had imagined!
How would you describe your style?
I like to create honest, authentic and individual hand-crafted ceramic tableware, homewares, jewellery and ceramic art that are natural and earthy, have a contemporary aesthetic and are also beautiful and stylish pieces to suit a variety of tastes and interior design styles. I really love the look and feel of rough, gritty stonewares, but I also equally love the contrast of the soft and smooth appearance of porcelain, so I will often blend a variety of these bodies together to create unique and one-of-a-kind stunning pieces.
All my products are lovingly created by me in my home studio and I like to do as much as possible myself, not only from envisioning to designing and producing my ceramics, but to collecting and preparing my branding materials such as earring display cards and business cards, to ensure everything is consistent and cohesive. There is a lot of time, energy and processes involved in achieving the final products and just like us, every handmade piece is unique and just as special as the next one!
What are your dreams or aspirations?
Besides selling my ceramic works, I am deeply passionate about using clay as a voice to help create change and for social justice issues and I try to enter ceramic competitions and exhibitions when opportunities arise. I am also deeply passionate about the power of creativity to enhance community and individual wellbeing and to inspire self discovery and transformation. It encourages us all to explore new ways of making, seeing and understanding both art and the world.
Where can our readers find your works or contact you?
I have various stockists Australia wide and currently have some of my creations in the new gorgeous local store, “My Shack By The Sea”, in William Street. I also sell work at the monthly Artist and Foreshore Markets, as well as selling direct to the public. I am in the process of setting up a website and online store but can be contacted via Instagram (aleisabyfield.artisan) and Facebook (Aleisa Byfield Artisan).