Known potter #51: Monika Leone

Monika Leone. Lesya

This wonderfully expressive bird was made by Monika Leone in 2009. It is 59 cm high and heavy enough to withstand Bemboka’s notorious Spring winds as it passes its third season on our front verandah.

Leone trained as a ceramic artist at Canberra’s Institute of the Arts from 1992-1994. Influenced by ceramics she had seen while living in Italy, Egypt and Indonesia, she found herself drawn to  majolica during a workshop with Pippin Drysdale.

Monika Leone

Her main body of work consists of thrown forms, some with curly Baroque handles and feet, handpainted with commercial underglazes using the majolica technique, and finished with lustres. She signs and dates this work ‘Monika Leone ACT’. The ceramic bird sculptures are from a different creative strand. She gives them names and keeps a photographic record of each bird on her website. Ours is called Lesya and she has such a presence with her clawed feet, finely feathered body and bright eyes, that I feel she must have a living counterpart in another place or time.

Leone combines her ceramic practice with being a gallery owner. In 2005, after four years at her Cuppalot Studio Gallery in Lyons, she launched the Mawson Gallery, a working studio and exhibition space at the front of her house in South Canberra.  She uses the gallery to exhibit her own works and those of other Canberra region artists, and also conducts regular classes on handbuilding and specialist workshops.

Visiting there last week, we saw that our lifestyles are very similar (apart from the classes, of course). It is a short walk from the breakfast table to open the gallery. During opening hours, we each work at our own creative tasks, breaking off when visitors arrive. A day can go past without visitors, but you never know who will walk through the door.



  1. Oh, I missed this post Judith … that week in May is a busy one for us – it was Dad’s (92nd) birthday the day you posted this, and then Hannah’s birthday later in the week and our anniversary the day after that. I know Monica as her kids went to the same primary school, and then she moved to Mawson a few years after we moved to Isaacs, so we pass her gallery regularly on the way to Southlands. I need to visit it more though as I’ve only gone in once. I didn’t know she had a website. BUT I do have 5 or 6 pieces by her – fruit bowl, tea pot, creamer, wall plaque, to name the main ones. Love them.

    I like your observation that her lifestyle is similar – though besides the difference re the classes, you do have a somewhat different setting. You have the gorgeous mountains and peaceful rural setting, but she doesn’t have to worry about invasive grasses!

    She won, as I recollect, ACT Potter of the Year in the late 90s perhaps?

  2. Thank you very much for the kind words Judith. It was lovely to see you both in Canberra and hello to whisperinggums in Isaacs. (I am trying to work out which Lyons mum you were). I am potting away as usual, working on more cups and birds and love teaching handbuilding to my enthusiastic students. We have great fun. Hope to catch up.

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