Jess Graham’s passion for ceramics has been unwavering since she was introduced to the medium as a high school elective in year eight. She was immediately drawn to the tactile process of building something up from a simple block of clay. Jess wound up taking the subject for the rest of her schooling career, and then into university.
The emerging creative graduated from her Bachelor of Fine Art at RMIT in the middle of last year. Her three-year course was stretched out to three and a half years because of the pandemic, but it pushed her to ‘create a space’ for herself and her art – literally and figuratively!
‘I’ve always enjoyed hand building pieces, and although I do still wheel throw things and use my pottery wheel, I do love the way that hand build pieces look,’ Jess says.
‘Throughout my degree I always found myself gravitating to natural clay bodies and not using a whole heap of colour in my work. It wasn’t until the final year of my degree that I started making my bulge pieces, but I don’t see myself stopping any time soon.’
It was these slightly kooky creations with organic, overflowing ‘bulges’ that earned Jess a spot in Craft Victoria’s annual Fresh! Awards, where she took home two coveted prizes, including The Design Files Emerging Maker Award and The John Wardle Architects Craft Prize, much to Jess’s surprise!
‘Winning two prizes at the Craft Victoria Fresh! Awards was a huge shock to me,’ she says. ‘I was going into the opening of the exhibition just to admire the work around me and not expecting a thing.’
Now an award-winning graduate, Jess is a ceramicist by day and a hospitality worker in a local pub by night – and on weekends. Her practice has a dual focus too, as she creates both functional and sculptural pieces. These range from simple, speckled cups, bowls and vases, to her more sculptural pieces and unique vessels, inspired by the human form (which explains her shapely creations!) and the work of another Melbourne ceramicist Zhu Ohmu.
Jess has recently set up her own studio space in the back of her share house, where she’s busy working on new pieces and a possible collection, so watch this space!