sharon alpren: ceramicist
Photographer Andrew Craig
with an english background, did you notice a difference in equality issues or awareness from england to australia?
i think gender bias is an ongoing issue in the arts although when i moved from the uk to australia 15 years ago I did not particularly notice a difference in that respect between the two countries in the field of ceramics. however society and culture in the uk, especially in london where i grew up, is far more diverse and multicultural than it is in australia, and this seems to be reflected in the greater variety of work created over there, whereas in australia it seems more homogenised. The uk also has a very long history and tradition of ceramics which i think has lead to a greater awareness of ceramics in general, respect for the craft, and appreciation of quality and value.
with running a business as a successful ceramicist and artist what advice would you give yourself if you were to write a letter to yourself say 10-15 years ago?
i would advise the me of 10-15 years ago to be very patient, because ceramics is a really slow process, and to be ready for plenty of loss and frustration as the failure rate can be quite high. i would tell myself to take lots of notes and never throw them away, as i’ve found myself returning to old ideas and glaze recipes years later. Also to stay fit and strong as ceramics has been unexpectedly physical, and hard on the back and wrists in particular. I would advise myself to develop the business alongside the work itself, and not leave it as an afterthought as many of us makers tend to do. and I would also tell myself to be very wary of copper, because i’ve learnt the hard way that just a tiny amount in the glaze on just one little pot in a kiln has the power to turn everything pink.
Photographer Andrew Craig
have you had in the past or currently have a mentor or person who has guided you or taught you lessons? what has been the pivotal teachings you have learnt to date?
i have had a number of teachers which, technically speaking, has been very helpful, as everyone does things a little differently. though the teacher that has been most influential, and who remains a mentor today, is melbourne ceramicist shane kent, who taught me for a few years when I first moved to melbourne. He really encouraged me to follow my own path at a time when most other ceramicists were making very fine pieces from porcelain. he taught me the importance of following my instincts, of making things i love, and being authentic to myself and the materials.
juliette: designer + co-founder arent & pyke
what does being a co-founder of a female dominated and led business as arent pyke mean to you?
not for a moment, did i think 12 years ago when we started our business that we would be set apart from men performing the same role in the same type of business. I have often had reason to doubt this belief over the years, however the strength in us both being women who lead a team of designers of all women does feel very much like we are part of something bigger than just the work that we produce.
photograph by Hugh Stewart
to me, it is all about finding gender balance across all spectrums. currently, there is a burning desire in our all of our lives to find balance, to get the balance right, but on a very small scale I find that balance for better is really a wonderful notion for men to be fully embracing. on a domestic level, gender parity means there is an awareness and appreciation of the very important role many of us (have chosen) and are tasked with - being the emotional, physical and spiritual guardians of our children - who are the leaders of tomorrow that will continue this movement.
photograph by Anson Smart - editorial styling by Steve Cordony
what do you see in the future of your industry and how we can improve equality within the workforce?
female designers, architects, artists and artisans who forge their own path, speak the truth and command attention while doing so are the ones that will expect nothing less than equality in the workforce. for the future I see more empathy, more flexibility and more intelligence when it comes to gender parity.
profile # 3 – ross longmuir (director / designer planet)
ross, how have you seen society change since you’ve been in business with planet in regards to gender equality with the makers you collaborate with to the staff you employ or the clients you work with?
we are so lucky that in australia, there are so many ways to be a woman today although the road to respect and freedom for all people requires effort from the entire community, including all genders. It seems to me that there are increasingly complex gender issues that we have all become more aware and respectful of. we should all be wary of stereotypes and particularly of our own conformity to perceived rigid roles. for some sections of the community there are increasing options for how women are living their lives, which is a great reason to celebrate, while there is also at the same time there is a strengthening binary notion of gender for others, that I frankly find a bit scarey. we are all part of the community that empowers everyone to be authentic and true to themselves
balance for better the phrase of women’s international day 2019 is a year long activity and collaboration. this theme provides a unified direction.
when i think about balance for better as the theme of 2019 women’s international day in 2019, I realize how important the power of love is. we all know instinctually know that loving is always more powerful than any other behavior and a woman’s ability to tap into this resource keeps us all on track.
as international women’s day is a global day celebrating social, economic, cultural and political achievement of women - who are some women that inspire you (past or present) and why?
celebrating women is a great thing to do on any day. at planet i am fortunate to speak to clients and suppliers all day and the incredible diversity of our female clients and suppliers and staff is always a thrill. my first thought is of the hundreds of women from around the world that make products for our showroom. women who labour to create useful beautiful items that bring enduring delight to our clients. often love is built into their crafting as they build the security of their families and communities and I also think of the laughter and connection that I have been part of as I work with women in villages in india to create items.