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Deidre Chestney

June 14, 2021

I came across the wonderful work of Deidre Chestney on Instagram recently and was so pleased that I had, because it made me smile. I got in touch with Deidre to discover more.

Hi Deidre, I love the range of techniques you use when creating your ceramics. How much time would you say you spend in ‘play mode’ and how often do the findings from that experimental creative time lead to new ideas ?

It’s taken me quite a while to get my head around all the aspects of making and decorating clay objects. First you have to choose the clay and make the thing (earthenware, midfire, stoneware – handbuilding or wheel thrown – functional or decorative?) Then there’s the decoration (stains, oxides, underglaze, slip, glaze, decals and lustre) Since purchasing my own kiln in 2016 I have been able to explore all these techniques and it’s only been in the last couple of years that my focus is starting to narrow. I know enough now to achieve consistant results in the firing as well as knowing what work I enjoy making so the experimental time is becoming less. 

Can you tell us a little about your life before becoming a Ceramist ?

After studying Graphic Design in New Zealand I spent my 20’s and 30’s working in studios and freelancing in Wellington, London and Melbourne. After moving to central Victoria with my husband we had a child, rennovated a house and now we run a business in the counry. After my daughter went to school I finally had time to get back to being creative and signed up for a local pottery night class. In 2015 I saw the Grayson Perry exhibition in Sydney and it blew my mind on what could be achieved with surface decoration on ceramics.

What is your fav item to make and why ?

I do love birds. Wings, feathers, colour, form, standing still or flying, 2D or 3D. I’ll never get tired of them!

You create a mix of quirky and realistic animals. Where would you say your ideas derive from and how much time do you spend working in sketchbooks before going into the making process ?

I’ve always been drawn to animals used in stories to symbolise emotions and human traits – as a child I would devour any books in the library on myths, legends and folk tales from around the world.  I’ve always loved childrens book illustration, folk objects and outsider art.

Our house backs onto a forest and we have many furred and feathered visitors to the garden that are inspiring – Kangaroos, Echnidas, Foxes Hares, Cockatoos, Ravens etc. If I can add a crown, texture or pattern to these creatures all the better.

Also there are a lot of sheep in paddocks around where we live. I look at them as I’m driving along and they are not always heads down eating grass. Often you catch them looking into the middle distance, quite introspective. Even being part of a flock I think they retain their individuality!

I draw in sketchbooks and flesh out ideas with pen and ink, paper cutouts and guache studies. If I’m trying to work out a composisiton often I’ll scan drawings and shapes into the computer and play around with them in illustrator. 

I saw a small video of yours where you transferred coloured glazes to your artwork using paper of some kind. Can you please tell us how this process works and what paper you use to do this ? Is it at the green or bisque fired part of the process ?

Slip transfer is a process where the decoration is all created on newsprint – this allows for creating gestural drawings that are hard to create directly onto clay. Using underglaze painting, slip trailing, stencils or screen printing you layer up a composition working in reverse. When the underglaze is dry you paint a layer of slip over everything and once that that’s dry you rub it onto a slab of firmish but damp clay. The mosture from the clay sucks all the slip and underglaze off the paper and it’s transferred to the clay.  Then you use the slab to form a shape – platter, tile, vessel etc.  Jason Burnett’s brilliant book Graphic Clay shows the technique as does Catie Miller on her instagram @catiemillerceramics

Which of your processes that you use do you enjoy the most and why ?

I’m enjoying building layers of colours with stains, underglaze and slip – both with the slip transfer technique and also using wax resist. I’ve found that relying on glazes to “colour” the work are too fickle and I seldom get the results I want. By using underglazes and stains I feel like I’m more in control.

Where do you sell your work and do you have an online site where people can buy from you ?

I exhibit with group shows in central Victoria a couple of times a year as well as some local retail outlets. This year I was part of Open Studios Macedon which has been very busy. People contact me directly through instagram if they see something they are interested in. I’m always planning to get my act together with my website but am just too busy!

Where do you see your work in 5 years time ?

I’m happy just letting things work themselves out.  I’m really enjoying the process of applying images onto clay and I enjoy being part of the local ceramic community. I would like to do more exhibitions, have a range of work I’m proud of and hopefully  in 5 years time will have sorted out my website!

Many thanks Deidre, it’s been great to find out more about your ideas and processes. All the best for the future and I look forward to seeing your website, do let me know when it’s done : )

3 Comments leave one →
  1. June 14, 2021 8:31 am

    Thank you so much Craig for the feature on your blog. You have featured so many of my design, illustration and ceramic heroes that I am really chuffed that you’ve included me!

    • June 14, 2021 8:52 am

      Lovely to feature your work in my own, not so private, hall of fame 😉 All the very best Deidre

  2. Cindi Lagoudakis permalink
    June 21, 2021 7:27 am

    What wonderful work, and those sheep really gave me a chuckle!

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