MAKER

Ben was born in Hobart in 1951 and was awarded a B.Commerce degree in 1972 at the University of Tasmania. From 1978-81 he studied ceramics at the School of Art in Hobart and completed a Master of Art, Design and Environment degree in 2004.

He has been designing and making his distinctive works for over twenty years after being introduced to woodfiring techniques by renowned potters Les Blakebrough and Gwyn Hanssen-Pigott. A woodfiring workshop conducted by Hanssen-Pigott just before she left Tasmania in 1980 gave him the stimulus to commit to working with local materials and firing with wood. He has maintained this commitment to an aesthetic based on indigenous materials by digging and preparing his own clay and grinding his own glaze materials. This processing provides the foundation for creating glazes and surfaces that convey both a way of thinking and a strong connection to the place of making. His work has a strong organic presence and an integrity of shape and form, surface and texture. He has studied wood-fired kiln building and firing techniques in Japan and in 2004 was invited to participate in an international woodfiring workshop and conference in the United States, with his work selected for a juried international woodfiring exhibition.

"Through the traditional practices of throwing and woodfiring, Richardson has created a body of work that dynamically addresses the concept of the potter as anachronistic and 'function' as futile.
In these works, thrown and altered forms refer to the shapes and textures that he has drawn from
the landscape to create a series of related container forms specifically for the restrained arrangements of indigenous flora. It is only when these forms are viewed in use that the work is seen as a whole, creating a certain sense of environmental balance, of gentle repose in the turbulence that is our time, that reaches beyond form and function."

Penny Smith writing in Ceramics: Art and Perception in 2004

He is represented in major collections in Australia with work shown in national and international exhibitions.

 

MATERIALS

Wild clays are collected from areas around Tasmania, including from Pipeclay Lagoon which my workshop overlooks. They are tested, processed and blended in the workshop, sometimes with added silica and feldspar, to produce a variety of clay bodies for different kilns and firings.

I also collect many glaze materials from around Tasmania, granite rocks from the Freycinet Peninsula in the east, dolerite and feldspathic sandstone from the Derwent Valley in the south, along with wood ash from
the trees on our land. These raw materials are crushed and ground to a fineness suitable for glaze making.
I then test these materials individually and in simple combinations trying to sense their potential.

It's a slow but satisfying way of working that seeks to connect both work and making to my close environment in an expression of place-based making.

PROCESS

My making process is strongly based on the wheel with its inherent potential expressed in the containment of the circle and the expanding gesture of the spiral. However often that is merely the starting point as form is cut and reshaped. Recently I have been experimenting with handbuilding techniques using hand rammed clay in flexible formwork using coarse clay bodies with dolerite inclusions.

A variety of techniques are used to texture the surface of the clay suggesting surfaces found in nature.
It can be from rope found on a nearby beach impressed into soft clay to create surfaces that reflect sun and wind on sand and water or faceted clay that echoes cleaving rock and burred steel. It may exist in the packing scars of local scallop shells and marram grass, sedimentary fossil residues of the transforming fire.

KILNS

My work is predominantly woodfired although some glazes reveal a different potential through gas firing.
I have 2 wood kilns a 6.5 metre long anagama kiln that has the last 1.5 metres sectioned off as a draught chamber, which can also be packed through a side-loading door. The second wood kiln started off as a small groundhog type kiln for testing materials and packing strategies - this kiln has recently had another chamber added and now is more like a chambered kiln with extended firebox/1st chamber. Both kilns are fired with black wattle gathered from our land but the new chamber can be fired with gum (eucalyptus) as it has a grate system. The kilns are fired for 2-3 days and have been conceived and developed to explore the potential of both clay bodies and glazes based on local raw materials.

TEACHING

I have extensive teaching experience at both university and technical college level and currently teach part-time in the Art Craft and Design program for TAFE in Hobart. I am available for workshops on throwing, kiln building and clay and glaze development. A particular emphasis in workshop teaching is " making from place" which involves encouraging participants to investigate the historical, physical, cultural and natural resource base of the workshop location. This is done as a means of generating ideas about form and surface that can provide long-term growth rather than short-term technique stimulus.

CV

For further details of teaching, kiln building and research experience download c.v.