Warwick Palmeteer

Known potter #11: Pippin Drysdale

Pippin Drysdale. Pinnacles Series. 1995. 14 x 15cm diam. Pippin Drysdale. Pinnacles Series. 1995. 14 x 15cm diam. Pippin Drysdale. Pinnacles Series. 1995. 14 x 15cm diam.

This small (14 x 15 cm) perfectly thrown bowl with parabolic form has an intense orange interior bound into a radial cellular pattern by fine dark lines and lustre accents. The pattern continues on the outside as an undulating band below which flow striated lines of muted colour. The small unfooted base is marked Pippin Drysdale ’95.

Pippin Drysdale is an internationally renowned potter based in Fremantle, Western Australia. She was born in Melbourne in 1943 but spent her childhood in Perth and returned there to live in 1972. She came late to potting, graduating from the Perth Technical College in 1982 and then obtaining a Bachelor of Arts from the Western Australian Institute of Technology (WAIT) in 1986.

At WAIT (now Curtin University of Technology) she became interested in design and experimented with painting onto clay slabs. Later she returned to the bowl shape as the form through which she could best explore the use of resist techniques and coloured lines and planes to evoke a sense of landscape. By 1995 she was working as a mature artist and achieving strong critical acclaim. She had exhibited at Narek Gallery here in the ACT in 1989 and 1992 but we had missed these exhibitions and were not particularly aware of her work.

I come from Perth and go back often to see my family. In 1995 David was with me and my sister and I took him to Fremantle for fish and chips at Cicerellos, a visit to the Fremantle Arts Centre in the old female asylum building and a walking tour of the back streets of the city. There we stumbled quite by accident on The Door Gallery and Drysdale’s solo exhibition of seventy works from her new Pinnacle series. We were enthralled and ran from room to room, knowing that just one of these pots was to go home with us and trying to choose which one.

When we go together to an exhibition somehow we always end up finding one piece that we both agree is the nicest. Price was a factor so we scorned the larger pieces, finding them showy. Amongst the more modest pieces that had not already been sold, this one stood out for us because of the intense colour inside the bowl, how this is constrained by the network of lines and the expressionist outside surface.

Back in Perth this August for family reasons we found that we had just missed an exhibition of Drysdale’s work at the John Curtin Gallery . The exhibition coincided with the launch of a new book on the artist (Ted Snell, Pippin Drysdale, Lines of Site, Fremantle Arts Centre Press, 2007). We were able to buy a copy of this book and found it enriching to know more about our piece and how it had been made.

Drysdale has her own website and continues to explore and refine new ideas in her Tanami Traces series with the help of collaborator Warwick Palmeteer who throws pots to her design.