Known potter #57: Ray Pearce

Ray Pearce. Lidded bowl
Ray Pearce. Lidded bowl. Base

David and I were both very pleased when we found this lidded bowl by the Victorian potter Ray Pearce on eBay way back in 2006 and it went straight into our permanent collection. It is ovoid in shape with a polished brown glaze to the upper part of the body and the outside of the lid. The remainder of the body and lid is carved and painted with map-like patterns and the lid has a removable steel and perspex knob.

It is hard to pin down why we like it so much. The polished brown colour with its ragged edge reminds me of slightly worn leather and the decoration also has the texture of worked leather. It looks like something that might have been made in the 1940s. With its lid mechanism, It seems to be part of some larger apparatus with an unknown scientific intent.

Ray Pearce (1949 – ) was born in Bendigo, Victoria. In 1971, he established the Blind Cow Pottery at White Hills, a suburb of Bendigo. In 1973, he obtained a Diploma of Art and Design from the Bendigo Institute of Technology and later taught there for several years. Since then, he has continued to make occasional forays into teaching at technical and higher education level as well as conducting private classes.

In 1990, he and his partner, artist Deirdre Outhred, moved with their two children to a property between Marong and Maiden Gully on the outskirts of Bendigo. There, over a period of 16 years, Pearce built a two-storey house with a tower, wings and balconies, using over 10,000 mud bricks and a range of recycled materials. His ceramics and sculptures share some of this obsession with recycled materials which he says he uses because he is poor; however, this results in a quite extraordinary aesthetic.

As well as working in clay, Pearce is a painter and etcher. He has held numerous group and solo exhibitions of his paintings, ceramics and sculptures over the years. In 2007, the Bendigo Art Gallery held an exhibition of his sketchbooks from the previous decade to provide insights into his artistic practice and creative processes.

Pearce is still making pots and we found a small cache of new work on our visit to the Faulkner Gallery in Castlemaine last year. These are just as interesting, with pots on tiny feet, or with pointed ends needing wire frames to support them. A teapot in a copper wire frame has a copper handle and a leather glove around the spout. The glazes are interesting too, with muted green and brown colours and complex textures.

His ceramic work may be marked with an impressed ‘Pearce’ and/or ‘COW’ for Blind Cow Pottery.

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