The Australian Ceramics Triennale – An Interview with Vicki Grima

The Triennale is Australia’s landmark national ceramics conference, bringing artists, educators, theorists and collectors from around the country, and the world, together to interrogate the field of contemporary ceramic practice.

Ceramics Arts Queensland spoke with one of the driving forces behind The Australian Ceramics Triennale, Vicki Grima.

Vicki is also the Editor of The Journal of Australian Ceramics, the Executive Officer of The Australian Ceramics Association, and on 11 June 2018, Vicki Grima was Awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM).

Why is an event of this importance held every 3 years?

Despite being called a Triennale, it will be a 4-year gap this time for the 15th Australian Ceramics Triennale. Finding a team prepared to take on such an important event for the ceramics community is a real challenge.

Due to state and regional events occurring at various intervals, a triennial event has worked well for this national event, the first one being held in 1978.

How would you describe the event to someone who knows nothing about it yet but would come if they did?

This event is for those with a fascination for ceramics – the material, the processes and the current state of play. It is a meeting place for our ceramics community, a place to be amongst fellow clay-lovers, your tribe, and to be immersed in every aspect.

We bring together artists, educators, theorists and collectors from around the country, and the world, together to interrogate the field of contemporary ceramic practice.

How are the bookings going?

The bookings have built steadily over the last year or so, and we’re thrilled with the response. We have even mentioned a maximum cut-off point, so that’s an amazing place to be!

Is there a lot of overseas interest in the event?

We have around 15 guests joining us from overseas, along with delegates from the US, Asia, New Zealand and Europe.

Which events have been the most heavily booked so far?

Sergei Isupov’s 7-day workshop (pre-conference) was quickly booked out and now has a long waiting list. Isupov’s work is largely autobiographical, his daily life inspiring the porcelain figurative forms he makes. His work brings together the ceramic medium, with graphic surfaces, and elements of painting. Somchai Charoen, master mould-maker has also been a big drawcard, with many interested in his one-day demonstration on complex mould-making at UTas (also pre-conference).

What is the hidden gem within the event or the presenters?

We’re yet to know, so come along to find out! I’m looking forward to some of the smaller gathering spaces with the massive PW1 venue – the Ask the Dr tent, the Philosophy Cafe and the ‘Don’t Think Just Make’ activity. The fire sculpture in the forecourt also promises to be a spectacle not to miss … a huge ceramic work built by local Hobart potters will be fired over 3 days lead by Estonian master kiln builder, Andres Allik. The kiln will be built in the lead-up to the Triennale and once top temp is reached (around 1300ºC) the petals of the kiln will fold open to reveal the red-hot sculpture.

What are you most excited about?

In a big country like Australia, to bring the community together on this small island off the bottom of Australia is a pretty mean feat! This coming together of the ceramics tribe to converse, laugh, exchange opinions, learn from one another, and share experiences will be worth the wait!

“A Sentence of Teapots” 2014 Photo: Richard Stringer
“A Sentence of Teapots” 2014 Photo: Richard Stringer

Triennale From top to bottom:Triennale Director, Vicki Grima, Somchai Charoen and Sergei Isupov’s Petal Kiln